In Her Image: a Pokémon RP

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Tom couldn't really understand what Rupert was saying, but he wasn't exactly interested in much past the fact that Rupert was ok.

"Cover your ears NOW if you want to keep usi-"
For some reason, Darius was warning everyone about something.

"Why is something going to happ-"

"WHISMUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Tom cringed as the second scream tonight tore through the small room. And then a blast of extrasensory was let out by Darius' Whismur. After the torrent of sound subsided, Tom picked up Kusari who had suffered some major damage from the psychic type attack. Luckily Kalmia was a dark type, and had only been hit by the noise.

"Ouch... Looks like that got you pretty bad huh?" He patted the Skorupi on the head and returned her back to her pokeball.

"That little one sure packs a punch! I think it was almost louder than Daria. She might have some shouting competition soon." He dusted himself off and shook his head a bit.

I was going to ask Rupert something... Augh but I forgot what! It'll come to me soon enough I guess.

Savannah passed Spriggan a flashlight, and turned her own one on, it's beam of light illuminating the previously pitch black corridor. The two quickly and cautiously made their way throughout the arena hallways, Sav struggling to find her bearings and remember how they had made their way inside previously. Eventually, they lucked out and found a fire door, and although it wasn't necessarily a fire, she was sure that they were allowed to be used for any kind of emergency, and that's certainly what she thought this classified as.
As she pushed open the the doors' handles, she was greeted by the pale moonlight hitting her face, and they were at least thankfully outside.

Now the question is, what to do next?

This thought of her's briefly subsided once she took a look around the immediate vicinity, and spotted a crowd of familiar faces, one particularly familiarly loud voice stood out amongst the rest.

"Ya wanted to help, right? Send out your... whatever your bird was, see if it can help!"

Sav made her way over to the group, which as she grew closer saw that it contained Caleb, Matt and Daria.

"Hey guys! I'm so glad to see some familiar faces, I've been stuck in that place for Arceus knows how long, I'm so glad to be out..."

"...I've got ways of making you rebellious types obey. Capiche?"

"...quil! Cyn-cyndaquil! CYNDAQUIL!"

"Daria... just what the hell do you think were you doing to my friend?!"

It was then that Sav saw the beginnings of what looked like an argument begin, although she hadn't been present very long she could work out the gist of it by overhearing, as well as noticing the way the Pidgeotto was acting with Daria not being it's native trainer.

Sigh... So predictable... Daria being heavy-handed again.

"Hey! Come on guys! I don't know what exactly is happening here but I'm sure if we all take a few seconds to step back, we can set some ground-rules. Sound like a plan?"

"Daria."

Daria was still watching the bird fly off as Matt spoke to her, and lazily turned her head to look at him. When she actually saw him, however, her expression changed. Both her eyebrows raised, and her mouth dropped open a bit; she was surprised to see him like this.

"Just what the hell do you think were you doing to my friend?"

The young woman tried to say something, only getting a stammer out at first. She looked dumbfounded. "What do you mean?" she asked, her voice going a bit higher in pitch. "I was just telling him who was in charge, ya know? Or else, traded Pokemon get kinda unruly."

"Hey! Come on guys! I don't know what exactly is happening here but I'm sure if we all take a few seconds to step back, we can set some ground-rules. Sound like a plan?"

Daria looked relieved as Savannah stepped onto the scene, smiling as she approached. "Yeah, yeah sure!" she said with a happy grin. "I'm sure it was just a misunderstanding... right Matt?"

"Hey! Come on guys! I don't know what exactly is happening here but I'm sure if we all take a few seconds to step back, we can set some ground-rules. Sound like a plan?"

Savannah's words made sense to a certain part of Matt. Sadly for all involved, it was the part that he chose to ignore.

"I was just telling him who was in charge, ya know? Or else, traded Pokemon get kinda unruly."

"So you threaten them until they listen to you?!" Matt's words slid between clenched teeth, as he refused to back down. "Is that how you try and make new friends? Is that how you treat the Pokemon that other people have entrusted you with?"

"Is that how you treat the Pokemon that other people have entrusted you with?"

"W-what?"

Daria looked hopelessly confused as Matt continued to seethe at her, the corner of her mouth starting to twitch as she tried to throw out some words to calm down the previously reserved trainer.

"I-I don't threaten them, I... Pokemon respect strong trainers, and I--I... I wasn't trying to hurt him!"

As the girl floundered, two newcomers approached the group. A freshly Recovered Gemini and Spiegel, who was quite noticeably and immediately glaring at Matt as he continued to chew out the Charmeleon's trainer. As he stepped closer, the beginning fiery licks of a Fire Fang could be spotted slipping between his bared teeth.

"Charrrr...."

"I-I don't threaten them, I... Pokemon respect strong trainers, and I--I... I wasn't trying to hurt him!" Daria said in a hopelessly confused state of mind, reeling from the comments that Matt had made earlier. Whilst normally he would remain out of such morality conflicts, Caleb decided to enter the fray.

"Pokémon don't solely look for a strong trainer Daria. Just as there are many different species of Pokémon that inhabit the world around us, there are countless ways as to how someone will approach a Pokémon. Some will seek to befriend a Pokémon through kindness, so that they may form a strong bond of friendship. Others will try and emulate a Pokémon's behaviour, so they can understand them better on a psychological level. And, as you said, some trainers will show strength, to show a Pokémon that they mean business. The overall possibilities are endless." Caleb said in a calm voice, expressing his opinion on training styles.

Things were quickly getting out of hand as Savannah joined the larger group of tenants. She did her best to alleviate the situation, but Matt was having none of it.

"So you threaten them until they listen to you?! Is that how you try and make new friends? Is that how you treat the Pokemon that other people have entrusted you with?"

"I-I don't threaten them, I... Pokemon respect strong trainers, and I--I... I wasn't trying to hurt him!"

Things were exasperated further by Daria's remaining Pokémon that had just arrived, with Spiegel readying itself to defend its Trainer. Violently if necessary. Remy was not about to sit through another session of bickering.

"That's enough! Matt, Daria has a point. She had to do something to persuade Ventus to cooperate. You know she wouldn't actually hurt a Pokémon, especially one that belongs to a friend, right?"

Turning to give Daria a warning glance, Remy continued.

"Although my method would've been a little different. In any case, we have other things to worry about right now, right kid?"

The Flying-types were airborn regardless. After a few minutes of searching, a Staravia could be heard calling to its Master, as Angelique landed on its Trainer's arm.

Staaar! Star. Staaaravia! Star!

Daria's hunch was right on the money. There was a sub-station just a short walk away towards the northeast. Apparently there were people hanging around it as well.

Remy thought for a minute and said.

"People huh? Probably cops... I'm not sure I want to get involved in all this... Especially not with my illustrious career... So, uh, I'm going to head back to the inn now. Anyone wanna come with?"

Savannah responded by walking up next to Remy and, with a quick see you later, they were off towards the Sleeping Sunkern, leaving Daria, Matt and Caleb to figure out their next move.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

The Sleeping Sunkern had just been shaken by Whismur's Uproar, waking up Granny Kerner's grandaughter, Susanne and nearly deafening Tom. Susanne burst into the dining room in a white top and grey college pants. Her pyjamas.

"What the heck is going on in here!?"

Granny Kerner also returned to the room, just in time to hear Rupert's more coherent version of what he had just been a witness to. Tom didn't understand any of it, but Susanne seemed worried.

"Oh, you poor boy! Here, have some tea to help you calm down. We should call the police about all this. There could be a new Team Rocket skulking around!"

At that moment, Lee and Ryan came in and made their way to the others.

"Everything alright here? Me an' Lee here heard a weird scream."

Shortly after, Remy and Savannah arrived as well.

"Hey there, looks like most of us found their way home. Why the long faces though?"

Granny Kerner made her way to the kitchen to make some more tea. It was going to be a long night by the looks of it.

"Hehheehheh. These young'uns sure have a lot of energy. Sure hope that feisty lass isn't getting herself into any trouble now."

Daria watched, feeling a little dejected as the others walked away, leaving her.

"Gee, city-wide crisis and you run to the hotel...thanks a lot, Snow-boy." she whined quietly.

"GERRO!"

Ventus descended through the air, landing on Daria's outstretched arm. She felt a very awkward chill in the air as she glanced at Matt, before immediately looking away. The one that could not ignore, however, was Spiegel.

"CHAR?! CHAR, CHARMELEON, CHAR?"

He was asking about the newcomer, as could be surmised from his gestures towards the Pigeotto. Daria shrugged, not feeling particularly enthused right now. "Uh, right, this is Ventus. Matt and I traded, Slagger for this guy."

"...CHAAAAAAR?!?" shrieked the little fire lizard, completely flabbergasted. He began flailing his arms wildly, yelling and scolding his trainer for daring to trade away Slagger, only to stop when she held up her hands, telling him to cool down.

"Relax, we didn't trade permanently. It was just a temp thing, so I could investigate this mess with the generators." She pointed off in the direction that Caleb's Staravia had found. "So, I guess we're heading that way. Caleb and... Matt, you can both come if ya want."

The startling thing about her speech was just how quiet and reserved it was. Daria, with all her Pokemon save Jet out of their balls, began quietly off towards the sub-station.

Caleb watched as Daria calmed down her Charmeleon, who looked flabbergasted after hearing that she had traded Slagger from Matt's Pidgeotto. What surprised him the most, was the overall calm nature of her voice, which was unexpected given her loud rambunctious nature earlier. She then pointed off in the direction that Angelique had found which would lead to the generators.

"So, I guess we're heading that way. Caleb and... Matt, you can both come if ya want."

"Of course I will Daria, I like you, wish to get to the bottom of this mystery." Caleb casually stated, Angelique still perched on his arm, soon moving to his shoulder. As a precaution, he also brought out Raphael, who after stretching his arms, curiously looked at the Luxray standing before him .

"Comb? Combusken?" He asked with a rather confused look, scratching his head to figure out who this new Pokémon was. Caleb could barely contain the giggles he was holding back.

"Can't you see who this is Raphael? Its Raiden, he evolved soon after the match with Nicolas, which we won by the way." Caleb responded with. Soon Raphael made the connection, and congratulated Raiden on his evolution.

" Commbb, Combusken!" He said with joy.
"Lux, lux lux ray." Raiden replied, nodding his head afterwards.

"Right then, now that this has been sorted, lets go and investigate this sub-section. You going to join us Matt?" Caleb asked in a friendly manner, before heading off to catch up with Daria.

Having finished recounting his little adventure to Tom, Darius, Madam Kerner and the newly arrived Susanne, Rupert was fully prepared to alert the authorities. What he was not prepared for was being doted upon by a young, and not fully dressed, woman.

"Oh, you poor boy! Here, have some tea to help you calm down. We should call the police about all this. There could be a new Team Rocket skulking around!"

Unsurprisingly Rupert was even more awkward around the opposite sex. He let Susanne push him into a chair and took the scalding hot mug of tea offered him. All thoughts of criminal organizations and their misdeeds evaporated from his mind as the now red-cheeked Rupert concentrated on avoiding looking directly at the girl.

Footsteps could be heard in the hallway and in quick succession Ryan, Lee, Remy and Savannah stepped in.

"Hey there, looks like most of us found their way home. Why the long faces though?"

Looking at him from over the top of the mug that he had hidden himself behind, scalding tea be damned, Rupert saw that the red-haired guy called Remy could tell that something was obviously wrong. Not looking forwards to being the center of attention again the now significantly less panicky Rupert started relating his story to the four trainers.

It hardly took a genius to note the dejected tone in Daria's voice, or her startled posture as Matt's words tore into her. But the real kicker was the pained look in her eyes, the disbelief and sadness that had replaced their usual hot-blooded energy. "I-I don't threaten them, I... Pokemon respect strong trainers, and I--I... I wasn't trying to hurt him!"

Daria's frantic attempts to defend her actions were lost on Matt. He didn't want excuses, he didn't want apologies. He wanted... Hell, he didn't know what he wanted! What did he expect her to do, turn back time and do something different? No, no, of course not; he was just pissed off, not unreasonable. Dammit... With little else to do, Matt settled for merely clenching his fists and staring pointedly away from Daria, clamping his mouth shut.

As Caleb began to prattle on and on about different training methods, Matt took a few moments to try and collect his fractured thoughts. This was certainly unfamiliar territory; a bit of inventory taking might help him sort things out. First, obviously, was the rage that boiled through his gut, the anger that refused to settle no matter how much he fought against it. Second, there was his companions, and their various emotional states: Daria was obviously hurt, and the look in her eyes sent pangs of guilt shooting through him whenever he dared to make eye-contact. Remy and Savannah seemed to be looking at both himself and Daria with a mixture of pity and displeasure, which was its own kind of torture. And Caleb... seemed to keep talking. Yeah, not really getting anything from him.

Matt stood in silence until Ventus and the Staravia returned. It was another nail in his coffin, watching Ventus settle onto Daria's shoulder without a hint of rebellion or aloofness. He wasn't sure what was worse, the fact that Daria had threatened his Pokemon or the fact that the tactic seemed to be working.

As the flying-types conveyed their information to their respective trainers, Matt dimly registered Remy and Savannah making their departure. Managing to mumble something in response, Matt watched as they headed off into Goldenrod's darkened streets. Part of him wanted to go with, but there was still the matter of re-swapping Slagger and Ventus.

"So, I guess we're heading that way. Caleb and... Matt, you can both come if ya want."

"Yeah yeah..." Matt's dark mutter barely reached his remaining companions' ears as he slowly trudgeed after them, a concerned Spike uneasily following behind.

It was going to be a looooooong night.

And so it was, with an awkward silence looming over their heads, that the last 3 inn patrons, Daria, Matt and Caleb, made their way towards the substation. You could cut the tension with a knife.

Once they reached their destination, Remy's hunch proved to be right on the money. Police. Dozens of them. Men and women in blue going in and out of the facility. A facility with a big hole on the side that seemed like it had been blown up. In charge of it all was a man, couldn't have been older than 50, with slightly graying hair, foreign looking (if handsome) features and a nice suit, covered by a long brown coat.

"The situation, how is it?" The foreign man asked a nearby police officer.

"It's not good Mr. Looker, sir. Whoever did this wasn't kidding around. There still at least a dozen more Voltorb and Magnemite in there, as well as a couple of Electrode and without him here to help us, it's taking a lot of time to defeat them all..."

"Hmm. Unfortunately, it can't be helped. Just do yo-- Hm?" Noticing the 3 approaching figures, the foreigner swiftly turns around and runs to meet them.

"Halt! Who is it that goes there? This here? It is a scene of crime. You should not be here."

The man called Looker had a serious look on his face but his peculiar accent made it slightly hard to take him seriously.
______________________________________________________________________________________________

Back at the inn, Remy was deep in thought. This new turn of events was quite unexpected.

"Susanne! Love the clothing! Don't I get a hug like young Rupert here??"

Remy's pathetic advances were met with a swift punch to the skull, flooring the would be ladies man.

"Ughh... In any case, that's quite the story Rupert. Eres, eh? Haven't heard the name before... It does make me worry about those 3. If this guy's still out there and catches them snooping around... Hnnnnhhh... What to do?"

A silence hung over the room as everyone seemed busy wrapping their brains around the day's events. Only Madam Kerner's pouring and serving everyone tea broke the eerie quiet. She then said.

"Don't worry, that girl can handle herself. Hehhehehh reminds me of myself when I was younger. Hehhehehheeh."

There came an awkward silence, as Caleb, Daria, and Matt walked over to the electrical substation. One they arrived, they could see dozens of police officers rushing in, out and around the crime scene. It was then that a man who was around fifty years of age came rushing over to the three trainers.

"Halt! Who is it that goes there? This here? It is a scene of crime. You should not be here."

"My apologies Detective." Caleb said politely, nodding his head afterwards.

"We did not mean to intrude unlawfully. Me and my friends here, simply wish to understand what had happened, and how this unfortunate incident came to occur in the first place. Is there anyway that we could help at all?" Caleb remarked, coming up with a honest reason for coming to the substation; finishing off with a question.

"Halt! Who is it that goes there? This here? It is a scene of crime. You should not be here."

There were many detriments that came with Daria's oblivious nature. One benefit, however, was being completely unable to notice this stranger's bizarre accent. She greeted him normally, by her standards, with a nod and a thumbs-up.

"Relax, buddy!" she said, forcing a smile. "Name's Daria Pace! We're trainers from the big tournament; I'm guessing this is the source of our power outage, am I right?" she said, giving a coy point at the demolished building.

"Susanne! Love the clothing! Don't I get a hug like young Rupert here??"

Darius looked on as the man's advances were met with a blunt and clear message of 'no'.

"Well, that certainly went over well."

He continued to smoke his pipe and nodded at Sav, who still looked angry, of course. The story that Rupert told wasn't one that he hadn't ever heard before. The Rockets back in Kanto had regularly done the same things, but he didn't remember anything like this happening in years, the word was the Rockets were either disbanded and living with the rest of society again, locked up, or still on the run. And the ones on the run didn't do this much, they were too few. He'd still been a kid the last time he'd heard about the Rockets anyways, so they weren't involved, and besides, this was Johto, he didn't remember them having much to do with stuff here anyways.

The Cubone that had tried comforting Whismur after her outburst he gave a pokeblock to, specifically made for Ground-types, and Knuckles liked them, he didn't see why the Cubone wouldn't like it too, but to each their own. He put Whismur and Numel back in their pokeballs, but left Daffy and Knuckles out, who had broken their lollipop sticks and were now in the process of looking around at everyone, curious as to why they were all there.

Savannah looked unhappy that she was unable to completely defuse the situation between Matt and Daria, although she was thankful that they eventually managed to resolve things between, helped in small part by the fact that the Pigeotto had already followed the heavy-handed trainer's order to scout the surrounding area.

Once it returned, it only reaffirmed Daria's suspicion of a supposed attack on the Arena's substation. Sav however, wanted no part in such an escapade, she didn't sign up to the tournament to do the Police's job, and she certainly wasn't about to investigate somewhere potentially dangerous, with a bunch of people she barely knew, all on the basis of some hunch.

Nope, she wanted no part in it, and swiftly bid her farewells to the ragtag group of detectives, giving them her flashlights with strict instructions to return them to the Pokecentre before heading off back to The Sleeping Sunkern, to at least get a good night's rest after all that had happened tonight.

"Susanne! Love the clothing! Don't I get a hug like young Rupert here?"

As she entered the inn she took a look around, only to see the boy called Remy met with a punch to spur his obvious advances.

"Well, that certainly went over well."

Sav turned to see where the other voice had come from, only to find herself catching the eye of the prick that had jilted her at the tourney. There was Darius, happily puffing away on that pipe of his, having not a care in the world. He noticed her briefly glaring at him, and he acknowledged her presence with a nod, which she responded to by ignoring. He looked almost puzzled at her, but there was no way she was going to let him play the blissful idiot, he must have some semblance of empathy, otherwise how could he act so ignorant?

She sat down at a nearby table, trying to avoid looking in Darius' even general direction. She ordered herself a Pecha Berry Smoothie, and opened up her Pokeblock case for Sprig, who had picked up on Savannah's percieved malice at the man in the corner, and was responding in the way he thought he should, by leering at him.

"Relax, buddy! Name's Daria Pace! We're trainers from the big tournament; I'm guessing this is the source of our power outage, am I right?"

"We did not mean to intrude unlawfully. Me and my friends here, simply wish to understand what had happened, and how this unfortunate incident came to occur in the first place. Is there anyway that we could help at all?"

Looker scanned the 3 people in front of him. An enthusiastic young girl that mentioned being a tournament participant, a gentleman and a young man who didn't seem very eager to talk. Definitely not people who seemed capable of such heinous acts of terrorism.

"Tournament? Tournament partakers, you say? Hmmmm. Indeed it seems that the aim here was to put a stop to the tournament. Voltorb and Electrode used to destroy outer perimeter, Magnemite to consume the electricity within."

The man appeared to lose himself in thought for a moment, before snapping out of it and properly introduce himself.

"Ah, I apologize. My name... No, I shall inform you of codename only, it is Looker. I am member of the International Police. My partner is not here at the present. You said you were tournament contestants. Perhaps you take me to your current place of habitation? I should question some participants."

"Perhaps you take me to your current place of habitation? I should question some participants."

"Uh... sure!" exclaimed Daria, her smile brightening just a tad. It seemed her mood was impossible to keep down for long; it came back of its own accord over time. She took two lunging steps forward, firmly grabbing Looker's hand and, with a yank, pulling him along to start walking and following her as she and her troupe made the trek back to the inn. She recalled all of them but Ventus, letting the borrowed Pigeotto perch on her shoulder as she waved for Matt and Caleb to follow.

This set of circumstances was unfortunate, for Looker. He had just encountered one of the few people who loved the sound of their own voice as much as him. They had not gone five steps before she started talking.

"So, yeah! Came here for the tournament, been a trainer pretty much my whole life! Kanto native, trained in the Pewter Gym, and Brock's star pupil! Even got this symbol on my back, see? Back home, they call me the Pewter Fist for my fighting prowess! Pretty wicked, huh? I've been training with the same Geodude since I was a kid, but he's a Graveler now, and also I traded him to that quiet guy, but only for tonight so I could borrow this Pigeotto to look for any signs of tampering with the power grid, which I found! And also, I found ya that way! Ya have any brothers, ya look like ya would? Me, I've got a brother, his name's Dirk. Annoying half-pint, kinda short for his age, just starting his training career; acts like he's some supergenius but really he just watches a lot of TV and reads a lot, so he predicts what people're gonna do, but don't tell him I told ya that, he'll flip out and cry or something. Ya should see him cry, it's like a Hydro Pump! Wouldn't believe how long I'd have to sit there and pat his head to make him stop..."

"...see him cry, it's like a Hydro Pump! Wouldn't believe how long I'd have to sit there and pat his head to make him stop..."

Daria Pace was an endless fountain of words. Something Looker had managed to deduce by now. The two young men accompanying her didn't talk, then again, how could they? The enthusiastic girl would hardly stop to take a breath. Looker didn't stay focused on Daria's blabbering for long, however, before losing himself in his thoughts again.

This incident... So similar to others in the country lately... Media coverups have done their job, but attacks. They are getting bolder, putting in risk civilians like these young people here. And the Pokémon involved...

It didn't take them long to reach the inn.

"The Sleeping Sunkern? Lights still on. A separate generator? Impressive."

Inside the silence persisted, aside from Remy's attempts to woo Susanne, which were almost as loud as the young woman's negative reactions.

*CHINGLING*

"Eh? I wonder who that is?" Remy asked as he made his way to the lobby.

"UAH! HEY GUYS! THEY'RE BACK!! Oh shit! A cop!

For a minute Remy's heart got jammed in his throat. This was it. He'd been made. He was going to pay for his life of crime and rot in prison. He couldn't do it! He couldn't live as some ex-Galactic's prison bi--

"Ah, good evening. My name, it is Looker. And you are."

The officer extended a hand in greeting, blissfully unaware of Remy's part-time occupation in petty theft and minor fraud. Then again, only a total bird brain like him would think that a high ranking agent of the IP had time for little Magikarp like him.

"Eh... Ah... Um... Remy. Remy Olivier. Pleased to meet you, officer."

"Please. Call me Looker."
______________________________________________________________________________________________

After proper introductions were made. All 10 patrons were sitting around the same table with Looker, as Susanne and Madam Kerner were in the kitchen preparing more coffee and tea.

Rupert repeated the summary of his experiences once more, while Looker listened in with a stern expression on his face. It took Rupert about 30 minutes to divulge every detail he could remember. When he was finally done, Looker closed his eyes and thought to himself a moment. Then, with a deep breath, he began.

"So that is how it was. Truly, you were very lucky, Mr. Gravel. Indeed your aquaintance Ike Sherman was the victim of this heinous crime, perpetrated by this mysterious criminal outfit. We know nothing of their identity, only that they've been spotted in cities all over the country. They wear black business attire and are sometimes known to rob people of their Pokémon, much like criminals of some years past."

Looker's expression took a slightly disgusted look as he continued.

"... But this group is even more severe. More heinous. Pokémon recovered at the scenes of their crimes... Brainwashing of some kind had been performed on them. Any attempt to reverse it, to cure them... Painful... In worst cases... Lethal. This is a very dangerous organization, and if the tournament they are targetting, then stop them here, I shall."

Looker scanned the 10 Trainers present. They looked experienced, if a bit young. What he was about to ask them would require finesse. He couldn't force anyone to put themselves at risk, even if it was for a cause of such great importance.

"The 10 of you... You seem proficient as Trainers. It can sound like a big thing to ask but... Would you be willing to help the International Police with this matter? As combatants in the tournament you have access to areas restricted to the regular public. You are also talented battlers. It wouldn't be the first time that young Trainers such as you would be of great help to this old detective..."

Looker was serious. This meeting had to be fate. To meet such a group of talented Trainers in a city so massive. With people so determined to get to the bottom of things. In them, particularly the girl called Daria Pace, he could feel a presence he hadn't felt in a long time.

"Are you kidding? Just like that, you want us to start playing Cops n' Robbers?? You don't even know us! Some of the people here are barely adults!! How can you just ask something like that from people you've just met!?!"

Remy didn't like the idea. He didn't consider himself a bad man, but he sure as hell wasn't about to stick his neck out for some cop he'd just met. Surely the others felt the same? He found it hard to believe that anyone else at the table would just up and join some impromptu Police operation, right? Right!?

It wouldn't be the first time that young Trainers such as you would be of great help to this old detective..."

There really wasn't anything Darius could say to that. Sure, any trainer his age had run into the Rockets a handful of times, but those days were long gone. The most he came upon any of them now were a couple of wannabe burglars breaking into the breeding facility he worked at.

He puffed his pipe and thought before answering, not really paying attention to the others at the table.

"Sure, we could probably help you, but how are half of us help you anyways? A few of us aren't advancing in the tournament so we don't have much reason to be anyplace that's not the stands, and Goldenrod has one of the best police forces in the regions, can't you just get them to cooperate and watch that area? I'd be willing to help if I saw some way I could help, but I'm not seeing any here that can't be done better by a few officers with their pokemon."

"Smoker."

A hand fell down and smacked the breeder on his shoulder. Daria met his gaze as he turned to look at her. Her shades were off, and her eyes were shadowed under the brim of her hat; even so, they looked bright and alert.

"We're Pokemon trainers. When we pick up our first Pokeball, we accept a power beyond human understanding. Training is more than a hobby, or a game. It's a responsibility, not just to ourselves and our friends, but to ALL Pokemon, and their trainers. We can't shirk our duty if there's the slightest chance we can help!"

She turned to the IP Agent in her seat. "Mr. Looker, I'd be happy to help!"

The silence that Matt had maintained on the trip back to the inn remained unbroken, even as the other trainers began to discuss Looker's proposal. His train of thought, however, had changed significantly. Oh sure, the guilt and anger that had occupied him earlier was still there, but it was buried underneath the torrent of other feelings and sensations that shot through his mind.

Everyone had heard of Team Rocket; even an introverted nine year old couldn't have missed them when they devastated the Kanto region so long ago, or three years later when they made their return in Jhoto itself. Even if Violet City had been spared the burnt of the organization's devastating tactics, the fear inspired by such actions had been far from absent; Matt could still recall the sudden increase of police officers and other law-enforcement in the small city and the uneasy way his mother would listen to the radio, waiting for any news be it good or bad.

Team Rocket had been a scourge and a menace. And this new group was supposed to be even worse...

Matt felt his gut wrench as Looker described their strategies, and the state that their Pokemon were left in. What kind of monsters could treat Pokemon like that, to damage them that thoroughly? Unbidden thoughts of Spike, Ventus, and Persephone, their personalities and identities erased forever, raced through Matt's mind in time with his nausea; only by grabbing hold of a nearby chair was he able to prevent his legs from collapsing.

"...I'd be willing to help if I saw some way I could help, but I'm not seeing any here that can't be done better by a few officers with their pokemon."

"...We're Pokemon trainers. When we pick up our first Pokeball, we accept a power beyond human understanding. Training is more than a hobby, or a game. It's a responsibility, not just to ourselves and our friends, but to ALL Pokemon, and their trainers. We can't shirk our duty if there's the slightest chance we can help!"

As Darius and Daria voiced their thoughts on the matter, Matt found himself struggling to agree with either. While there was no doubt in his mind that this new group, whoever they may be, needed to be apprehended and halted, what could he possibly do to help? Matt was an average battler, at best; the only reason he'd made it this far was because his opponent was a no-show! And unlike the rest of the trainers gathered here, it wasn't like he had any special talents or abilities.

But still...

"Um, I-I don't know if there's really anything I could do to help, Mr. Looker, sir. B-But if there-if there's anything you need me to do, I'll try and... I'll try to do my best, sir."

Despite the tremble in his voice and the uncomfortable look on his face, there was no doubt that Matt's words were sincere. He sure as hell wasn't a Red or a Gold, but like Daria had said he was a trainer. And he would do everything he could to live up to that title.

During the detective's speech, Tom couldn't help but feel like he had seen the man before. He was a bit surprised that he was asking the strange group of trainers for help. After all, they were hardly professional crime fighters.

"...We're Pokemon trainers. When we pick up our first Pokeball, we accept a power beyond human understanding. Training is more than a hobby, or a game. It's a responsibility, not just to ourselves and our friends, but to ALL Pokemon, and their trainers. We can't shirk our duty if there's the slightest chance we can help!"

While Tom agreed completely with Daria, he was still hesitant to accept Looker's offer.Sure, he loved a good mystery, but he really didn't think that he was cut out for being a detective.
However then Remy spoke up.

"Are you kidding? Just like that, you want us to start playing Cops n' Robbers?? You don't even know us! Some of the people here are barely adults!! How can you just ask something like that from people you've just met!?!"

Suddenly Tom remembered where he had seen Looker before. He shot up and shouted, "I remember you! You're the one who cracked open Team Galactic back home! You and that famous trainer! Hey, if he could do it, why can't we? I say we help out!"

Darius took the smack on the shoulder with a grunt, even with that she packed a hell of a punch. As a retaliation of sorts, he blew a smoke ring at her, which engulfed her head before being whisked away on the wind.

"I didn't say I wasn't going to help, just that I don't see how I and a few others can help when we aren't exactly allowed in all the stadium's rooms now that we're out of the tournament. Public areas I'm pretty sure he can keep covered. The only reason he'd ask us is because he and the police can't keep the less populous areas of the stadium under his watch without some kind of approval, and that creates all sorts of political hell.

"Alot like taking care of other people's pokemon,in fact, they drop 'em off and think that's the end of it, each pokemon has so many papers in it by the time they come back to pick 'em up that its file is easily the size of your hand, Daria. And saying these guys aren't that much worse than Team Rocket really isn't saying that much, at least the ones I ran into when I was still doing the gym challenge, but Rupert here did mention them doing a few things I don't remember the Rockets ever venturing into."

"That being said, I'll help, but I still don't see what I can do that your trained officers can't. Daffy and Knuckles are strong, but they aren't-"

At that point, a loud "PSSSSSSYYYYYYY!!" was heard from across the room, where Daffy and Knuckles had tied some kind of material around their necks and were now pretending to fly, the Psyduck just had the unfortunate circumstance of being slightly ahead of Knuckles and near a table edge. The subsequent drop and PLOP as he bounced onto the floor quieted the room before the table resumed their conversation with the strangely accented police detective who had been involved in some kind of upheaval in one of the other regions. Darius didn't remember hearing anything about it, but then again, where he was situated, he didn't always hear alot of things from the news.

Lee just sat their listening to the others argued about helping or not, he knew that if these criminals had a plan that involved attacking a pokemon tournament that this was going to be far from safe, and Lee wasn't the kind of person to jump head first into danger 'Of course I am going to help, if someone stole and brainwashed my pokemon I would expect the same form my fellow trainers, not for them to sit around waiting for someone else to solve the problem.'

Not allowed to go around and scare people duskull floated around the inn, going in and out of walls and object, looking for something to do.

Caleb sat there with a coffee in his hand, as he listened to Looker's proposition with a measure of interest. The way that these mysterious criminals acted, reminded him of both Team Aqua and Team Magma that had plagued the Hoenn region some ten years ago. Whilst their methods were different, the overall outcome was the similar, anarchy.

From what he could gather, Daria, Tom and Matt had agreed to help the detective; with Darius begrudgingly agreeing to assist as well, although not quite as enthusiastic as Daria was. Whilst Remy on the other hand, sounded very much reluctant; basing it on the grounds that Looker hardly knew any of them. Caleb pondered his own decision whilst drinking the coffee that was provided for the group.

"I shall help in whatever capacity I can Mr. Looker. And my team of Pokémon are also willing to assist." Caleb remarked in a calm tone as he continued to drink the coffee. He looked at his team, who all nodded in agreement.

Darius' Whismur didn't seem to respond all that well to Cubone's attempts at calming her down. Instead she chose to snuggle even closer to her's trainer's chest, leaving the Ground-type feeling slightly dejected. He couldn't help but think back to a time when he and Whismur hadn't been so different; a time when he was all alone in a large, frightening and unknown world. That's when Rupert had found him. Cubone sighed. He recognized that Whismur was facing an uphill struggle, but at least she trusted her trainer.

Darius did seem to appreciate the Cubone's well-meaning intentions though, and offered him a homemade pokeblock. Cubone, true to its proud nature, initially refused it. Accepting "treats" was demeaning. However, after catching a whiff of it the cube suddenly appeared extremely delectable. So delectable that after a momentary duel between his pride and his stomach the normally so disciplined Cubone snatched the pokeblock out of Darius's hand. He then gave what he hoped was a nonchalant nod to the Kanto trainer, before scampering off to find a quiet corner to eat, trying hard not to seem too excited about his treat.

At the moment, quiet was not what The Sleeping Sunkern could be described as though. At their table the trainers were all voicing their opinion to Looker's suggestion. Rupert remained perfectly still, just listening. This wasn't because he had nothing to say about the aforementioned suggestion. Oh no. He had plenty to say: namely that he wanted no part of it. The though of running into Eres again terrified him. The shame over this fear was all that kept him quiet. Remy was first to speak up.

"Are you kidding? Just like that, you want us to start playing Cops n' Robbers?? You don't even know us! Some of the people here are barely adults!! How can you just ask something like that from people you've just met!?!"

Yeah, this is completely unfair. You can't ask me... us to go looking for these people. That crazy talk! This is your responsibility.

From amidst his little smoke cloud Darius wasn't too eager to help either, albeit for entirely different reasons.

"I'd be willing to help if I saw some way I could help, but I'm not seeing any here that can't be done better by a few officers with their pokemon."

Yes, exactly! We... I wouldn't be of any use anyway. I should just go home. Nothing I can do about this. There is no shame in going home now, right? I did what I came here to do.

Rupert winced as Daria smacked a hand upon Darius' shoulder in response.

"We're Pokemon trainers. When we pick up our first Pokeball, we accept a power beyond human understanding. Training is more than a hobby, or a game. It's a responsibility, not just to ourselves and our friends, but to ALL Pokemon, and their trainers."

I... But... Whu?

To this Tom agreed loudly. As did Lee. And Caleb. Even the quiet Matt was eager to help, and this despite the fact that he seemed pretty scared himself. Rupert felt deeply ashamed. He really hadn't expected it to be the boisterous Daria who would knock some sense into him. Of course he was going to help Looker in any way he could. He really didn't want to. No, Rupert wanted nothing more than to get on the next whatever to Lavender Town, but he knew that he could never live with himself if he did. Not now. Being a less than great man does not make one incapable of great acts.

"... I'm in."

Rupert was glad that the table concealed his shaking knees. He looked over at Cubone who was now eying Lee's Duskull with suspicion, all the while trying to conceal his treat.

A familiar face entered the Sleeping Sunkern, accompanied by an altogether much more strange one. Soon they were all gathered together on a single table, with Daria, Remy and the strange detective who called himself Looker explaining the situation.

"The 10 of you... You seem proficient as Trainers. It can sound like a big thing to ask but... Would you be willing to help the International Police with this matter? As combatants in the tournament you have access to areas restricted to the regular public. You are also talented battlers. It wouldn't be the first time that young Trainers such as you would be of great help to this old detective..."

Sav stared at this strange detective who was enlisting the help of complete strangers. She had always thought that the International Police had to be quite clever to hold their position, even more so if they were a detective, but now she could see that her previous assumptions had proven false.
As she began slurping away at the last few droplets of her berry milkshake, she listened as turn by turn those around her accepted to help, all in all, it seemed like her own decision had been made for her.

"Okay Mr. Looker, I am willing to offer my help in whatever way I can, both as a Trainer and as a Breeder."

Ryan watched as one by one the others, barring Remy offered their help to Looker. With a hearty grin, the Sinnoh native joined in.

"Me an' Mightyena might not be much lads, but we'll do everything in our power to help!"

Remy stood, dumbfounded as everyone, every single Trainer at the table pledged to aid Looker in his efforts to stop this possible new threat to people an Pokémon everywhere. Even Matt was willing to put his well-being on the line if it meant he could be of help.
Suddenly he felt very ashamed. Ashamed and angry at his selfishness. What if it was Zangoose that was abducted? The Zangoose he had been with for over 12 years... With a sigh and a chuckle Remy sounded off.

"Heh... So all of you wanna play hero, eh? Well in that case, count me in!"

Looker... looked on with a satisfied smile on his lips.

No matter the times. Young Trainers and their fiery spirits blazing with justice can always be trusted.

"Very well then! On behalf of the entire International Police Force I, Looker, deeply appreciate your co-operation. Oh my goodness, look at the time! You all should rest, that you should! I must rendezvous with my partner now, as waiting. He hates it. Tomorrow, enjoy the city as you normally would, as well as the tournament. I have given you my number, you should share yours as well. If something unusual were to occur at the tournament, do not hesitate to call."

Looker then made his way towards the exit.

"Goodnight all. And until we see again, be wary of evildoers."
______________________________________________________________________________________________

With Looker gone, Remy, as the designated guide to Johto cleared his throat to call everyone's attention.

"Ahem... So, the tournament tomorrow won't resume before 6 p.m. Until then, we'll have time to do some sightseeing, as well as some much needed shopping. Let's meet here at 8 a.m tomorrow and leave for the commercial area together. Let's also meet here at 5 p.m before heading to the tournament grounds. Sound good you heroes? In that case, I bid you goodnight and until tomorrow!"
_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Remy made his way to his room. It was high time the rest of his team got some time out of the confines of their PokéBalls. As Sneasel jumped off its master's shoulder and nestled cozily at the feet of Remy's bed, the red haired Trainer released the rest of his rogue gallery.

"Come on out you mugs!"

A Premier Ball released Zangoose, who after shooting a glare of disapproval at its partner for keeping him in there for so long, made his way to the balcony where he would sleep for the night. Zangoose loved little more than sleeping in the moonlight.

Zan Zangoose Zan...

"I know, I know. Sorry brother, it's been hectic. I'll tell ya all about it."

Next, a Great Ball split open, revealing the Primeape inside. He opted for his hammock, which Remy usually installed wherever they would be crashing at that time.

Prrhhime! Rrrimeape!

"Heh. glad I got you that thing. Impossible to make you sleep otherwise..."

Last but not least, Remy threw a Lure Ball into a small inflatable pool of water. A Tentacool came out, seemingly happy to be in the water and to see his Trainer again!

Cooool. Coool. Tennntacool.

"No problem lil' buddy. Now, what say you to some sleep?"

The 4 Pokémon agreed and with everyone tucked in, the next morning was only a few hours away...

Daria watched as Looker made for the door, a devious smile on her face. Whether it was true or not, she believed herself responsible for convincing the others to help. A successful speech, and a victory in her eyes. She beamed as she stood up, already certain of where she needed to go. She walked off out of earshot, and plucked a Pokeball off of her belt, aiming at the floor and opening it up. The shape that formed was Ventus, the Pigeotto, who looked up at her with a mix of confusion and slight fear. She kneeled, to look him in the eye. Her mouth was flat.

"I'm trading you back to your trainer now." she put a finger on his feathery breast, and glared. "You're gonna treat him with respect, and you're gonna obey every order he gives ya. We clear?"

The bird hesitated for a moment before nodding precisely once. His temporary trainer's expression lightened considerably, and she grinned again. "Good!" she exclaimed, calling him back to his ball.

She stood up, walking back to where most of the Sleeping Sunkern's patrons were still gathered, and approached Matt from behind. She poked him on the shoulder, getting his attention before handing a Pokeball to him.

"Ya probably want your Pigeotto back, right? Thanks for letting me borrow him."

"Ya probably want your Pigeotto back, right? Thanks for letting me borrow him."

Matt had studiously avoided meeting Daria's eyes for the entire evening, and he had no intention of voiding his efforts now. That, combined with the fact that he couldn't think of anything to say to her, resulted in a fairly short exchange.

Accepting Ventus' Pokeball, Matt muttered something along of the lines of, "Yeah, thanks," before reaching to his belt and removing Slagger's ball from its temporary spot. Wordlessly, he handed the ball back to Daria, his eyes hidden by his hat's brim.

The exchange completed, the silent trainer turned around, and began to slowly trudge towards the stairs, and eventually his room. He had a lot to think about.

"Ahem... So, the tournament tomorrow won't resume before 6 p.m. Until then, we'll have time to do some sightseeing, as well as some much needed shopping. Let's meet here at 8 a.m tomorrow and leave for the commercial area together. Let's also meet here at 5 p.m before heading to the tournament grounds. Sound good you heroes? In that case, I bid you goodnight and until tomorrow!"

Tom thought for a bit. That plan sounded good to him, but the tournament didn't allow items to be used as were the official rules for all tournaments. Do I need any supplies? The word echoed a few times in his head however and a memory came back to him. As Tom, Rupert, and Ryan were making their way towards their rooms he decided to ask.

"I was wondering if you guys wanted to go with me to catch some pokemon? We could go buy some pokeballs, and I brought a friend ball with me from one of my friends back in Ecruteak. It's probably a good idea, especially for you Ryan. I'm not saying that your Mightyena isn't strong, but if you look at Rupert, he only lost because my team outnumbered his. If he had another team member he would've defeated me easy! The longer a battle is, the more fun it is, and the more team members you have, the longer the battle will go! You don't have to come if you don't want though, and I'm going to mostly train Trapic. But if I find something that looks like it would be a great new teammate I'll try my best to catch it! So what do you say?"

Tom really hoped that the two would accept. It'd be nice to see Ryan battle, and Rupert could use a bit of training as well. Catching pokemon was just as fun to him as battling and training, and he really did love to make new friends.

"Very well then! On behalf of the entire International Police Force I, Looker, deeply appreciate your co-operation"

Darius nodded to Looker as he left the inn, deep in thought and still puffing on his pipe, even though the embers had cooled long before. Eventually noticing this, he pulled out his tobacco pouch, and took note that he'd need to buy some more soon. He'd never had Johto-grown tobacco, but it it was anything like this city, he didn't have much to worry about. Lighting his final pipe for the night, he sipped the tea that had been set in front of him and looked the old woman and her grand-daughter over, just a cursory inspection, as the younger of the two he hadn't seen before Whismur's outburst.

Taking his mind off those things, he pondered Inspector,Dectective, International Police Officer, whatever, Looker's words. He needed help against someone more ruthless than the Rockets, which wasn't saying much, but still, the brainwashing of pokemon was something he couldn't wrap his mind around. The personalities of individuals was what made many stronger, taking that away made them much less effective in battles, and infinitely less enjoyable to be around, he suspected. Looking over to Daffy and Knuckles,he smiled as they'd somehow conjured a sheaf of paper and were now playing some kind of game, what he wasn't sure about, but they seemed to be enjoying it. a short time passed and his pipe finally went out, and many of the others had gone off to their rooms. Daria was still below in the training center, he could feel the thumps and weight of pokemon and woman alike being thrown around through the floorboards beneath his feet. Gesturing to Daffy and Knuckles, the trio ascended the stairs, Knuckles supporting Daffy as the Psyduck had much shorter legs and wasn't able to climb as well as the other two.

They reached their room and Darius opened it, locking it shut behind him and putting the key on top of the wardrobe, out of reach of the two criminal pokemon before taking off his pokeball belt and cinching it around the bedpost, much tighter than he had the night before. He didn't want another incident of waking up to find it in a dresser or under his bed the way he had that morning. Knuckles found himself a spot in a corner, and curled up into a ball, giving the illusion of a mound of dirt in the area. Daffy looked around for a place to sleep for some time before deciding on the wardrobe. The Duck pokemon opened the doors, stepped inside, and closed them again, leaving a small sliver of light peeking through. The breeder and his pokemon were soon asleep, not even bothering to turn off the lamp in the room.

Daria gave a somewhat lackluster chuckle and waved as Matt walked off, hoping that he'd cheer up soon. It was kind of... awful knowing she was responsible for that. She tried her best to put her thoughts behind her, giving a quick mention that she'd be doing some last-minute training before tomorrow. With Slagger safely returned to her, she walked down the stairs and emerged in the training room.

She surveyed the place. Nice, quiet, and empty. The perfect place to continue her team's regimen of physical exercise. In quick order, she tossed three Pokeballs into the air, letting them pop open and release white lights, quickly morphing back into her Pokemon team. Spiegel, Jet, and Gemini promptly saluted.

"Char!"
"Leelee!"
"Hya!"

Daria gave a wicked grin, surveying the three of them. They were all set for tomorrow, to be sure. Only one was missing. She hefted her fourth Pokeball and smiled down at it before tossing it out with the rest. "Come on out, Slagger!"

The ball hissed as it opened, and she watched the white energy spill out into the floor and begin to take the shape of Slagger. Then, just as it formed the basic outline, it stopped. It shifted towards something else, then back to a Graveler, then back again. Daria watched the process as she recognized what was happening: Evolution.

"Groovy..."

Finally, the white light faded, and Slagger stood before her.

"GOLEM!"

Daria stared on in silence, eyes going a bit wide as she took in her partner's new form. She stepped up to him and leaned down just a tad, as he'd grown taller, and held out an open-palmed hand. "Dig the new look, Slagger! Ready for some late night sparring, new secret weapon?"

The Golem stared at her, its new eyes red and narrowed. Her own eyes fixated on his, and they both stared in silence for moment. And then...

Slagger's brows raised, and it gave a happy smile. "Gol, Gol!" He high-fived his trainer and hopped over to the side of his teammates, who gave him a bit of a concerned leer. Spiegel in particular was a bit intimidated, and gave a careful poke to the strange new body of Slagger. The Rock Pokemon did not notice, however, his attention devoted fully to Daria. She marched in front of the four of them, arms folded behind her back.

"OK boys! And, uh, girl, Gemini."

"Hya!"

"We're gonna be fighting again in tomorrow's tournament, and the Teddi-Bear in the Blue Tunnel's gonna have it out for us. I want all of ya in top shape, and working creatively. I want ya to be able to swap between attacks and think on your feet. So, tonight we'll be going all out. The four of ya again me, ya ready?!" She gave a malicious smile, a thumb pointing up at her. Slagger and Spiegel immediately broke into a cold sweat on hearing this, holding each other for comfort on instinct. When she fought all her Pokemon simultaneously, Daria tended not to hold back. Jet and Gemini seemed less fazed, though the latter only because it hadn't been present for one of these "extreme" sessions before. Jet was actually kind of looking forward to this. Just more training before he fought that Hitmonchan; and no way it could pack a bigger wallop than Daria.

If he lasted through this, victory tomorrow would be certain. Daria retracted herself into a fighting stance, and her quartet of Pokemon did the same. "Hehehe... GO!"

Gemini began to spin, flying off into the fringes of the arena, and Slagger rolled off to Daria's left. The trainer herself charged headlong towards Spiegel and Jet, who shared a nod before going for a combo attack. The Hitmonlee dropped to the ground, using a Rolling Kick to try and trip up his opponent. At the same time, he used his arms to give a boost and launch Spiegel into the air, who came careening back down with a Fire Fang.

Seeing the attacks coming up at her fast, Daria ducked and rolled to her right, avoiding Jet's strike entirely. Spiegel was still coming for her, but that was simple enough. As he snapped at her, she juked to the right and let him go past her; but not too far. She waited until he began to pass, then snapped out with both hands to grab his tail.

"CHAR?!"

"HEAVE-HO!!~" She yelled, giving a strong effort before tossing her Charmeleon high up into the air. He smacked straight into the ceiling, thankfully not leaving behind a crack. He clung up there by his claws, watching the proceedings below as Slagger and Jet moved in. The former had been charging up a Rollout for a little while now, and was moving straight towards her.

"NO, NO, NO!" she shouted, ducking and winding up a leg for a kick. "YOU FELL FOR THIS AGAINST REMY, TOO!" She swung out with her best imitation of a Low Kick, aiming to take down Slagger in the first strike. She was more than surprised when, at the last possible moment, the Golem hopped over her leg, timing it just right to let a Toxic drip down and smear on her jeans. It seeped through to her leg quickly, and a fair amount had already touched her skin by the time she got a hold on her pant leg. With a few quick tears, she removed the entire pant leg under the knee, letting her get a good look at the very painful purple blotches. She gritted her teeth, throwing a thumbs-up to Slagger as he came to a halt and looked back to her. "THAT'S RIGHT, THINK ON YOUR FEET! NEVER FALL FOR THE SAME TRICK TWICE!"

She stood back up, nearly faltering for a second as she adjusted to the new pain of the poison in her system. Pokemon Toxic had lost its fatal effects on humans generations ago; didn't mean it was a pleasant experience. She'd need to be more careful. Especially once she caught a glimpse of what Spiegel was up to.

She looked up to see a Smokescreen billowing out and shrouding the entire ceiling. The lizard was hidden somewhere up there, waiting to pounce. But that wasn't the worst of it. Gemini's up there too...

Daria had little time to think about this with a Hitmonlee moving in. With swift jabs and kicks from well out of her range, Jet moved in. Ducking and weaving, the trainer was able to avoid the first four blows, only stopping to block at her midsection when the second blow of a Double Kick came too fast. The impact was strong, and lifted her off her feet. She stumbled back, grinning as she wiped some sweat from her nose. "NOT BAD!"

She lunged back, delivering a brutal punch into Jet's face and bowling him over. "BUT STILL OPEN TO COUNTERS, DAMN IT!"

"HYA HYA!"

"Hup?" Grunted the trainer, looking up just in time to see a Swift attack begin. A trail of stars came blasting out from the smoke, Gemini still hidden within, as Daria was forced to begin moving. Jukes, quick dashes, and backflips were the order of the day as the Pewter Fist barely stayed ahead of the barrage, when she saw Slagger gearing up for his next strike. Perfect...

Flipping onto her feet, Daria sprinted straight for the Golem flipping over him with the Swift continuing unabated.

"GOL GOL GOLLLLL--" KABOOM

An eruption of impacts dazed Slagger as he took the blow for his trainer; albeit unintentionally. He didn't have any time to regain his senses before Daria flipped over him again, facing him head on as she lifted her leg into the air. This is how Jet does his Brick Break, so maybe...

"KIYAA!!" she screamed, tensing her muscles as she brought down a brutal strike to the top of Slagger's boulder-body. Its entire self shivered and reverberated for a moment, and it looked ready to strike back. Then, the twinkle of consciousness faded out of its eyes, and he fell straight over, unconscious.

Daria gave a holler of joy, before immediately groaning as she leaned down to feel her left leg. She'd pulled a muscle doing that; and with her other leg poisoned, she was at a severe handicap against the other three.

She turned around, to see Spiegel drop down from the ceiling, popping his own neck and cracking his knuckles in anticipation. Gemini landed beside him, flexing its arms before preparing a Water Gun attack on its top limb. Finally, to her left she could see Jet using Focus Energy to give him an edge. All the odds seemed stacked against her.

With a dramatic flair, she tossed her hat off, and went into a front-leaning stance. About time we had somewhat even odds...

She charged, bellowing at the top of her lungs as she closed the distance.


One hour later...

"Char-har-har... mele..."

Spiegel was the first one back to Daria's room, slowly opening the door and hobbling in. He was nursing a massive shiner on his right eye, and his right arm had been twisted and hung loosely at his side. The bruises hurt so bad he wasn't keen on so much as tensing the muscles.

Next came Daria and Jet, each leaning on the other for support as they limped in. Jet seemed oddly satisfied, even with a hobble in his left leg, and fantastically purple bruises all across his torso and face. Daria wasn't looking particularly good either, dried and cracked blood running from her nose all the way down to her chin, and a bit dripped onto her shirt as well. Both of her legs were torn up beyond belief, half the skin scraped off her left leg, and the blotchy purple marks of poison still torturing her in the other.

Finally, Slagger dragged in a still-unconscious Gemini, proud holder of "Last Pokemon Standing" that night, who was now beeping and blinking quite rapidly. It was difficult to gauge the Staryu's opinion, but the Golem seemed quite cheery, all things considered. They each went to their favorite spots in the room. Daria flopped onto the bed, Spiegel climbed up to the windowsill and looked out at the city's nightscape. Slagger curled up at the foot of the bed. Jet laid himself under the sink/counter sitting outside the bathroom. Gemini went into the bathroom itself, before leaning back out.

"Hya, hya?"

"Hiiit..."

Jet got up from his spot, which was by no means easy to get to in his condition, and went back inside the bathroom with Gemini, using his more dextrous hands to turn on the warm tap for the bathtub. The both of them watched in silence as it filled up just short of the brim, and the Hitmonlee shut the water off. Giving another "Hya!" in thanks, Gemini clambered in, eager to have a place to soak for the night. Jet mumbled something in his drowsy, agitated state, and fell straight to the floor, opting to just crawl back to his spot.

With the lights off, Daria stared up at the ceiling as she lazily changed into her nightclothes. "So, ya all ready for tomorrow now?" she asked with a somewhat raspy chuckle.

"Chaaaar..."
"Lee..."
"Golem..."
"Hya!" sounded off her team, somewhat halfheartedly save the starfish.

"Hehe... good." she said. "We'll, uh... we'll drop by the Pokemon Center tomorrow before our match, ok?"

Silence. Her team had fallen asleep already. She gave them a once over from her spot under the covers before shrugging and grinning as she drifted off to sleep.

The trainers slowly dispersed. It had been decided that they were indeed going to help Looker, and it had been a very long day. Perhaps even more so for Rupert than for anyone else, considering that he hadn't slept the previous night. He had been up all night preparing for his battle with Tom. Despite his nervousness about what the new day would bring Rupert yawned. He barely caught anything of Remy's suggestion as to when they should meet up tomorrow.

Not everyone seemed tired though. Daria was apparently planning a training spree down below. Stealing a glance at her before she left, Rupert actually couldn't imagine the fierce trainer tired. Making his way to the stairs leading to the rooms he somehow found himself walking with Tom and Ryan. Maybe it wasn't all that odd that they had gravitated together; Tom and Ryan were definitely the two people he had had most contact with in Goldenrod, but Rupert was still surprised over how natural their company felt. This was something new for him. Before Rupert could reach his room Tom spoke up.

"I was wondering if you guys wanted to go with me to catch some pokemon? It's probably a good idea, especially for you Ryan. I'm not saying that your Mightyena isn't strong, but if you look at Rupert, he only lost because my team outnumbered his. If he had another team member he would've defeated me easy! You don't have to come if you don't want though, and I'm going to mostly train Trapic. But if I find something that looks like it would be a great new teammate I'll try my best to catch it! So what do you say?"

Rupert was taken aback by the suggestion and was about to decline as per his usual instinctual response to invitations of any kind, but stopped as he thought more about it. What Tom said made perfect sense. Rupert losing due to having fewer pokemon than Tom was admittedly a flattering exaggeration (he hadn't forgotten his massive blunder with Tom's Shieldon), but there was some truth to it. If he was going to start standing up for himself and his team, especially to the likes of Eres, he needed to get stronger. Rupert also remembered his promise to Cubone and Haunter about how he was going to be as dedicated to them as they were to him.

"A-actually... yeah. Yeah, I'd like that. Um... C-count me in, Tom!"

Tom seemed inordinately pleased and the three trainers later parted with a 'good night'. To the tune of a few faint crashes from Daria's training Rupert found Room 311 and made his way in with Cubone and Haunter in tow. The room was spacious and better furnished than Rupert had expected at the price range. More than anything else though he was just happy that the bed looked very inviting. The two pokemon were pretty tired themselves. It had been an eventful day. Haunter yawned and before Rupert's eyes disappeared into the deep shadows in a corner of the room. Cubone climbed the bed and laid himself belly up near the footboard, still clutching his bone club. Rupert too made for the bed after a quick teeth-brushing.

Lying there in the bed, staring at the ceiling, he felt like a completely different person. No, more like there was a side to him hitherto unknown even to himself. The way he had handled that battle with Tom; his new found resolve to be a proper trainer; him trailing a suspected criminal; promising to help the police capture a notorious crime gang. Rupert couldn't imagine himself doing all this just 24 hours ago. He was still extremely nervous about what the new day would bring, but he couldn't deny that with that nervousness there was now some excitement about it all to be found.

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