Chapter 17: Tradeoffs

Hey everyone, welcome back, and sorry for the cliffhanger! Also sorry for theslightly late chapter: those of you who read HPMOR can probably guess whatdistracted me.

So, one of the readers brought up some good questions about pokeballfunctionality and the hoothoot’s death in his review, and I wanted to sharesome edits and clarification here:

Even if Red had registered his hoothoot with his pokedex, he can’t just catchanother pokemon and overwrite its data with the hoothoot’s: pokemon don’tbecome “energy” per se. They are basically atomized and compressed into a massof what looks like energy, much like the light of the Star Trek transporters.The actual pokemon that was captured needs to be the one used, or else apokemon that’s almost literally a copy of it down to the atomic level, or elserisk major complications. Just think of the gut bacteria and antibodies thatneed to be recreated. It’s theoretically possible, but so difficult that it’srarely attempted and has never been successful.

Pokeballs are so arbitrarily powerful that the temptation to include morefeatures and failsafes and capabilities than those included in thegames/anime, like wireless data backup and automatic registry, have to beresisted. Since I need to draw the line of how powerful they are somewhere,I’m trying to stick to the games’ capabilities as much as possible, and evencome up with various miscellaneous restrictions (battery life, mass limits,“lock on” requirement) to explain why people in the games and anime don’t, forexample, fly over wild pokemon dropping pokeballs on them until they’recaught.

Otherwise, taken at face value with how they seem to work, the munchkinrywould be so powerful and so obvious that the only explanation for why peoplein the games and anime don’t use them that way and are still smart enough totie their shoelaces in the morning is that pokeballs can’t be used that way,and it’s just up to our imagination, or in this case mine, to come up withreasons why.

Hope that makes sense, and if anyone has new questions or objections to note,I’m really interested in hearing them, either as a review here or on/r/rational’s post. Enjoy!

The shiftry rush at them through the swiftly thickening smoke, and the momentof shock shatters with the sound of their roars. Blue can feel his heartbeatin his throat, but it’s adrenaline that fills his veins, not fear. Now heknows what he’s up against. Now he can act.

“Go, Lep!”

“Go, Pauletta!”

Out of the corner of his eye, Blue sees Luis summon a doduo and Sarah anaipom. She yells, “Square!” and Luis echoes her, and their pokemon, includingthe nidorino and gloom, take positions in front of their left and right hands,covering all four corners as the shiftry close in.

Then Blue has to focus on his own opponent, who leaps toward him instartlingly quick hops. His left hand hand unclips squirtle’s pokeball as theright points at the shiftry. “Wing Attack!”

Zephyr dives and begins buffeting its eyes with its wings as its talons andbeak tear at it. He aims his ball to the side, bracing with his other hand.“Squirtle, go!” As soon as his pokemon materializes, he clips its ball andpoints at the beedrill. “Soak!”

The turtle falls to all fours and opens its mouth, shooting water in a widespray that drenches the bug. He hears the yells and cries of the othertrainers and their pokemon as they fight, but his entire focus is on hisbattle. The shiftry is swinging at Zephyr, cutting itself up with its ownleaves as the pidgey dodges and flits around its head. The smoke billows andgusts as Zephyr’s wings beat at it, making it hard to make out exactly whatthe shiftry is doing. Blue prepares to give another command, but the last oneseems to be working for now.

Squirtle’s deluge slows to a stop as it runs out of water, and the air heretoo dry for it to absorb any more moisture through its skin. Blue returns itto its ball, watching as beedrill begins to move less sluggishly. “Beedrill!Poison sting!” Its wings move faster as it shakes the water off them, but onlylifts for a second before sinking back down. Come on, get up!

The shiftry fighting Zephyr roars, then bends its knees and leaps back to getclear before swiping clumsily forward with both arms. When Zephyr flies abovethe sharp leaves to continue pecking at its eyes, the shiftry’s forwardmomentum immediately stops. “Climb!” Blue cries, but it’s already reversingthe feint, leaves slicing up quick as a blink as it bounds back like a springloaded toy.

Blue unclips and points Zephyr’s ball as his pokemon falls to the grass,covered in blood and with a wing half shorn off. “Return!” _He’s fine, he’llbe fine once I get him to a pokemon center- _ “Go, caterpie! String shot!” Thegreen bug looks pitiful against the towering tree monster, but it dutifullysends a sticky stream out. The shiftry blocks it with one arm and leapsforward, but gets drawn up short when the arm tugs against the ground wherethe string had fallen and stuck.

Beedrill’s wings buzz as it tries again to lift itself up, but it stilldoesn’t last more than a couple heartbeats. The shiftry cuts the string andleaps aside to avoid a second, and as Blue aims caterpie’s pokeball at it andopens his mouth, the shiftry leaps forward and cuts his pokemon in half.

Blue stares in shock for what feels like seconds, but can’t be because theshiftry doesn’t pause in its forward momentum, bounding around the beedrilland slicing at him. Wait, hang on- Blue’s hands are already moving ahead ofhis thoughts, dropping his caterpie’s ball to the grass and pulling out anempty one as he leaps to the side to avoid the shiftry’s attack.

Pain lances down his side as the edge of the leaves cut through the protectivemesh under his clothes, and he cries out as his thumb expands the ball andaims it. He bites down on any further screams so he can hear the _ping,_throws-_only __one left-a_nd hits the shiftry from the side.

It vanishes in flash of light, and Blue collapses to his knees, handscrambling at his bag. Zero sudowoodo one sudowoodo two sudowoodo three… Hepulls a potion from his bag and sprays it on his side, losing count of theseconds as the relief washes through him. He pushes himself to his feet andscrambles toward his beedrill, who keeps lifting up then sinking back down.

Out of time. He grips the beedrill around the middle and heaves it towardthe rocking pokeball on the ground, narrowly avoiding its lashing blades andstinger. The ball disgorges the shiftry in a blinding flash and a bang justas his pokemon descends on it in a frenzy.

The bug’s stinger and arm blades pierce the shiftry’s rough skin again andagain. It roars in pain and swipes at his pokemon, but the leaves only scratchits exoskeleton, and the beedrill just keeps attacking.

But it’s still being injured, little by little. One of its legs gets cut offby a swipe of the shiftry’s leaves, and half of its wings get cut off fromanother. Blue thinks furiously of what standard commands his pokemon learnedin the ball when he registered it. “Beedrill, climb! Beedrill, back! Beedrill,Twin Needle!”

His beedrill doesn’t respond at all, and Blue’s heart sinks as it continuesits self destructive frenzy. The tip of one armblade breaks off in the treepokemon’s chest, bleeding clear ichor, but it doesn’t even seem to notice. Abeedrill should be able to bring a shiftry down in most cases where it catchesone by surprise, but whether because of its nature, the circumstance it wascaught in, or its lack of training, his has gone too berserk to makeefficient, decisive blows.

Blue hears one of the other shiftry roar and turns to the others. Two shiftryare lying still on the ground, but the aipom and nidorino are gone, probablywithdrawn back into their balls. As he watches, Sarah’s gloom shoots acid atone of the remaining shiftry, who keeps trying to evade with middling results.Luis’s doduo weaves into range and get a pair of pecks in at his opponent’selbow, severing the whole arm before leaping back out of the way of the otherarm’s swipe.

It wails in pain, and its eyes suddenly glow as if lit from within. Within asecond the other shiftry’s eyes are glowing too, and Blue feels a rush of fearas the two trainers and their pokemon suddenly stagger and collapse.

He turns to his own opponent and sees its eyes also glowing. His beedrillfalls to the ground and twitches spastically, and the shiftry leans on itsbranches as it keeps its gaze on the bug, trembling and bleeding from over adozen wounds.

Blue doesn’t stop to think: he grabs his caterpie’s ball as he runs towardLuis and Sarah, holding down the button and saying “Release Caterpie!” as hisother hand takes out his last empty ball and expands it.

The shiftry with both its arms turns to him as he approaches, but he feelsnothing, and soon he’s close enough to hold the balls forward so they canlock. Come on, come on…

The shiftry seems to realize something is wrong, legs bending as its eyes losetheir light and it prepares to leap at him. The two pings go off almostsimultaneously, and Blue throws just as it attacks. The shiftry bats the ballto the side, but not fast enough to avoid it opening and sucking it in, whilethe other simply gets nailed in the back and captured.

Blue runs forward and kicks first one ball, then the other, sending themsailing through the smoke before he rushes to Luis and Sarah. “Hey! Get up!GET UP!” He shakes Luis, who groans and presses his palms to his eyes,before going over to Sarah and doing the same with her.

Sarah quickly recovers, one hand rubbing her temple as the other picks up hergloom’s ball. “Return!” She clips it and picks out another ball. “Thanks Blue.Where-”

There’s an explosive crack and a flash through the smoke, and within momentsthe shiftry rushes back toward them. “Go, Ribbon! Quick attack!” Her newlysummoned furret slinks between the shiftry’s feet in a dizzying whirl, bitingand scratching while narrowly avoiding its return swings, not giving it achance to focus a mental attack again.

A second explosive crack sounds, and Luis gets to his feet to face theoncoming shiftry. Blue turns back to the one with his beedrill and feels ajolt go through him.

His pokemon and the shiftry are both lying on the ground, completely still. Herushes back to them, hand unclipping beedrill’s ball. “Return!” He takes hispokedex out and aligns the lens, heart hammering in his chest as the screenshows weak but positive vital signs, and then:

No Neurological Response - Brain Patterns Critically Disrupted

Gone. Two of his pokemon, gone in minutes.

He looks over the shiftry’s wounds, some leaking a strange, thick blood, theflesh around others dark with poison. As the battle rages behind him, Bluemechanically sends his beedrill back out and orders the ball to release it.The shiftry isn’t moving, and he approaches it from behind and kicks thecrinkly, tough white hair that drapes down its back.

It feels like kicking a log, and the shiftry rolls a bit onto its stomach.Dead too.

There’s a roaring in his ears, and it takes Blue a moment to realize it’s notsomething he’s actually hearing. He takes a deep breath as the anger boils upthrough his detached calm, trembling as he restrains the urge to kick theshiftry again and again and again.

Instead he turns back toward Luis and Sarah in case they need more help, butthey’ve brought the last two shiftry down. The doduo seems to have pecked itsway into its opponent’s eye socket until it reached the brain, but it gotterribly cut in the effort, and one of its heads seems to still be sufferingfrom the mental assault. Luis finishes applying a bottle of potion to theslice along its breast, then withdraws it. And Sarah…

Sarah sits with her pokemon draped over her crossed legs, stroking its long,sleek body. As Blue gets closer he sees the wide, dark stain in the grass, andrealizes the furret’s neck is covered in blood. Its head was cut almostcompletely off.

She looks up at him as he approaches, crying quietly behind her mask. “Yourpokemon?”

He shakes his head, not trusting his voice. Luis comes up behind her and putsa hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Sarah. We’ll give Ribbon a proper buriallater, but right now we need to warn the Rangers. There might be more shiftryout here, especially if we’re near a seedot nest they were guarding.”

She nods and puts her pokemon’s body down, whispering something Blue can’tmake out. Then she stands and points a ball at it. “Good girl, Ribbon,r-return.” It gets absorbed in a flash, and Sarah turns away, one handclipping it to her belt as the other goes to rub at her face beneath her mask.

“You alright?” Luis asks after a moment, gesturing at his side.

“Oh.” Blue looks down and prods at his wound, wincing a bit at the tender scabunder the drying blood. “Yeah. I’ll get it checked out later, but it didn’t gotoo deep.”

“Lucky. No,” Luis shakes his head, then winces, hand going up to rub histemple. “Sorry, my head’s still a bit scrambled from their extrasensoryassault. I’m sure luck had little to do with it. We’d probably be dead rightnow if not for you. Did you stay out of their line of sight, or are youpsychic?”

Blue takes a breath, then lets it out. “Neither. I’m dark.”

Luis blinks. “Oh. Right. Well, good.”

Blue watches Sarah check each of the shiftry, cautiously approaching andkicking them the way he had. _Here it comes… _

“So, did you, uh, sense them?”

Blue looks at him.

“Is that how you knew? I’d heard that dark people can sense dark pokemon.”

Somehow Blue doubts that’s exactly what Luis heard. “That’s not how it works.We don’t have any mental powers, even where dark pokemon are concerned.”

“So how did you know they were there?”

Blue feels a bloom of heat in his chest, and imagines himself stroking agrowling arcanine back to peace. There probably isn’t an undercurrent ofsuspicion in Luis’s tone. Blue’s probably just imagining it. “I just had a badfeeling, that’s all. The shiftry shouldn’t have stuck around when it saw itwas outnumbered.” Blue looks at the original shiftry and is surprised to seeit’s still alive. Despite being covered in acid burns and poisoned wounds, itschest rises and falls as it struggles weakly to move with its shattered leg.

“Well you were by yourself at first, weren’t you? How did it find you-”

“I don’t know,” Blue snaps. “But I didn’t draw it to me, if that’s what you’reimplying. That’s just a myth.” He walks away before Luis can finish hissurprised denial, heading toward the original shiftry.

“What are you going to do, Blue?” Sarah says as he passes her, voice stillthick with sorrow. “Be careful!”

Blue stops just outside its reach, watching as it notices him and tries toattack with a sweep of one arm. It moves sluggishly, the remaining intact leafdropping to the grass after a moment as it collapses onto its back again,breathing shallowly. Whether from blood loss or the poison in its system, it’sclearly dying.

He watches its yellow eyes slowly fill with light, a flickering, uncertainglow. He meets its gaze without blinking, and the light slowly drains away,leaving it staring blankly upward. Its chest still rises and falls, and Bluecan hear the rattle of its breath as it struggles to draw in the next one.

Blue notices he has the pokeball in his hand, the one that held his beedrill.But it’s useless here, the shiftry are just too big… even the one that wasmissing its arm had broken out eventually, though it had taken a bit longer…

“Come on Blue, let’s head back.”

“It’ll die if we leave it here.” _And all this would be for nothing. _ A totalwaste, like the pikachu that was almost his.

“What do you want to do, just heal it and let it go?”

“No. That would still be a loss.”

_I refuse to lose again. _

Blue eyes the shiftry that’s missing an arm, then looks back at the originalthat had set the ambush. Luis’s next question is just an annoying buzz as hecarefully steps forward, then kicks the shiftry in the shoulder and leapsback.

The pokemon stirs weakly, emitting a rumbling cough and fannings its arms oncebefore collapsing with a wheeze and going still, eyes closed.

Luis looks at him with wide eyes. “What did you do that for?”

“I’m going to catch it.”

Sarah’s brow creases. “You can’t, it won’t fit in a pokeball.”

“Then I’ll make it fit.” He takes a poison antidote and potion bottle from hisbag and begins to spray the shiftry’s wounds. “You guys go ahead if you want,I’ll catch up.”

They don’t respond, merely standing and watching as he finishes treating theshiftry’s most serious injuries. When he finishes, he puts the bottles awayand goes over to the severed arm of the shiftry Luis fought. He lifts itcarefully, the barklike flesh rough beneath his hands, and brings it back tothe living one.

“What are yo-”

Blue stands on one of its hand-leaves before it can recover too much andswings, the sharp leaves biting into the thin joint of its shoulder.

“_Blue! _What the fuck-”

The shiftry groans and thrashes a bit, but doesn’t try to retaliate, so Blueswings again and almost completely severs the arm. It hangs loosely by a bitof flesh, and Blue suppresses the revulsion rising in his throat, feeding itto the fire in his belly as he sidesteps and stomps down, snapping it off.The shiftry shudders, but lies still.

Blue hears a step behind him and turns, expecting Luis to take a swing at him,but Sarah has a hand on her brother’s shoulder. The boy looks sickened andangry, but she just stares at the shiftry with red-rimmed eyes.

Blue takes out the potion bottle again and sprays the oozing stump, then goesto the shiftry’s other side. “Plant pokemon can heal practically any wound, ifthey have something to absorb from. That, plus some help at a pokemon center,and it should be fine.” He steps on its remaining arm and chops it off withonly two whacks this time.

“But this is…”

Blue glares at him. “Would you rather it die? That’s better?”

Luis is silent, but Sarah says, “I would.”

He turns to her, frustration about to boil over. “I’m sorry about Ribbon,but-”

She shakes her head, staring at the original shiftry. “Ignore me. It’s not theone that killed her, and it dying won’t bring her back. Do what you want.”

Luis is staring at his sister with a mix of pain and alarm, but he staysmercifully silent as Blue turns back to finish butchering the shiftry’sremaining limbs, then cutting at its thick, heavy hair. He expects the pokemonto wheeze its last breath at any moment, but it’s a tough one: it passes outshortly after its first leg is gone, but keeps breathing.

When Blue finishes dragging away its limbs and brushing the long cloak of itshair away, the remaining torso and head look relatively tiny. He takes out hislast pokeball, hefts it for a moment as he considers… should he chop off itsnose too? More of the thighs? But no, he doesn’t dare risk any more damage.It’s time to roll the dice.

He aims the pokeball until he it pings a lock, and with an underhandedthrow, it captures the remains of the plant pokemon.

Blue watches the ball bounce to the ground and roll to a stop, feelinghollowed out as he waits… and waits… and finally, slowly, lets his breath outa bit. Enough. It was enough.

“It worked,” Luis says, sounding a bit shocked and about as sickened as Bluefeels.

“Not yet.” Blue takes out his pokedex and lines up the lenses, face blank ashe watches the screen for the inevitable error-

His shiftry appears, information registering. Its vital stats are listed incritical levels, its mental activity subdued… but there. It’s alive. Alive,and his now.

And its first memory of its new master may well be him chopping it to pieces.

Something inside Blue loosens, the rage that he’d locked away pouring out in ascalding flood, diluted by nausea and sorrow and triumph. He wants to danceand cheer at having caught such a powerful pokemon, wants to sit and weep hisself-loathing away. He wants to go back to the forest fire and throw the ballinto the heart of the blaze.

But he can’t afford to lose control, not yet. Sarah and Luis are going to talkabout this to others, and he needs to make sure the stories make him appearstrong, determined. There are different ways he could react to this, all ofthem genuine, but still mostly within his control. Would it be better to lookmore relatable? Willing to do what’s necessary, but not callously? Would theyrespect him more for a moment of weakness, or would it just diminish what he’ddone?

In the end he clips the ball to his belt, then lets himself slowly fall to hisknees, resting back on his ankles with his fists on on the grass to eitherside, head hanging. His legs were feeling unsteady, and it feels nice to justclose his eyes and breathe for awhile.

After a few moments, he feels a hand on his shoulder. He opens his eyes andlooks up to see Sarah staring down at him with concern. Luis is behind her,looking less repulsed than a moment ago. Blue probably confirmed some of thenastier stereotypes of dark people to the older boy, but there’s not much hecan do about that. He is who he is: he can’t change the fact that he’s dark.After tonight, he’s not sure he would even if he could, though that willprobably change again eventually.

“You okay?”

Blue nods and slowly gets to his feet as Sarah removes her hand. “That’sprobably the worst thing I’ve ever done,” he says, voice hoarse. He clears histhroat and lifts his mask to his forehead, then rummages in his bag for somewater.

“Where did you learn to do a thing like that, Oak?” Luis asks. “I can’timagine your grandfather thinking of it.”

Oh, he’d think of it alright. As for do it, well… depends which storiesyou believed.

Blue decides not to share that. Instead he finishes the bottle and tucks itaway again before fixing Luis with his best glare, shoulders straight and chinup. “Well I’m not my grandfather.”

“You say that like it’s a good thing.”

“He’s a great man. I’m going to be a greater one.”

Luis doesn’t look impressed. “Greater than the first Professor in Indigo?You’re not like any researcher I’ve ever met.”

“That’s because I’m not a researcher. I won’t ever be a professor. Mygrandfather was Champion in your parent’s day, and I’m going to be Champion inyours, but that’s where the similarity ends. My skill is as a battle trainer,and my priority is to win, whatever it takes.”

“If this is what winning looks like, I wouldn’t want to have to face you,”Sarah says, looking around at the shiftry’s body limbs.

Blue shakes his head. He has to make them understand. “I’d never do this in amatch or tournament. This was about survival. The shiftry’s, and eventuallymine. I’m stronger for having it on my team.”

“Which will help you become champion.”

“Becoming champion is just a means to an end. It’s not my ultimate goal. Onits own that wouldn’t make even things like this necessary.”

“Then what does? If being Champion isn’t enough, what is it you want?”

He meets her gaze. To tell, or not? Is it too early to set such highexpectations? He might get mocked, laughed at, before he even has a chance toprove his capabilities.

Better to wait. Better to reveal it after he has a few badges at least, hasdemonstrated his skill.

He opens his mouth to say something generic about protecting the region-


All of them duck, kneeling in combat ready positions as they scan theirsurrounding. The mighty roar fades, and the smoke around them is suddenlyominous once more. I can’t use Zephyr again, he’s hurt…

“I don’t think that was a shiftry,” Luis says after a moment. “Way too loud.”

Blue shakes his head. “It sounded familiar, but… it wasn’t a venusaur…”

The earth rumbling roar echoes through the forest again, and this time Bluerecognizes it. He lets his breath out in relief. “Finally.”

“Is that…?” Sarah slowly straightens, hand falling from her belt.

“Onix. An enormous one, by the sound.” Blue smiles, relief easing the last ofhis tension as he heads back toward the fire. “Looks like Pewter finallyshowed up.”

“Did you hear that?”

Leaf nods, standing and looking in the direction the roar seemed to come from.“Is that the real thing, or is someone else copying our trick?”

The two of them have been waiting over an hour since Blue left, quizzing eachother on pokemon trivia to keep themselves awake and vigilant. Occasionally a‘chu gets close enough to use the pokedex again, and they began experimentingwith different sounds, one of them keeping onix on standby in case the golemor nidoking roars don’t work.

They haven’t been able to try many though, as the number of ‘chu runningaround their area of the forest seems to be dwindling. As they reduced, otherwild pokemon have passed by in growing frequency, but luckily none have comenear them.

Now the onix roar sounds again, and goosebumps run up Leaf’s arms. Somethingabout hearing it triggers a primal fear in her hindbrain. She can imagine thatsound traveling and echoing through each chamber of the rocksnake’s bodybefore releasing in a hammerblow of sound and fury.

“I think it’s the real thing.” Red cranes his head in the same direction, thenplops it back down. “Which means Leader Brock or one of his lieutenants mightbe close by. Maybe they’ll have enough people to send someone here soon.”

“I hope so. The fire doesn’t look like it’s gotten much smaller.” Leaf looksat Red. His face has been pale since he fell out of the tree, but it’s showingmore and more strain as the night goes on. “You holding up okay?”

He grimaces. “Arm is starting to hurt, that’s all. Is there any more…”

Leaf worries at her lower lip a moment. “Yeah, but I don’t think we should useit unless that dose wears off completely. Sorry.”

“It’s okay.” Red props his pokedex back up on his chest. Another half hour oftrivia passes, Red randomly scrolling through pokemon files and turning alisted fact into a question, then Leaf doing the same for him. At first theystuck to local pokemon to help Leaf get more familiar with the native species,but eventually they drift farther.

“Why do some basculin have red stripes and some blue?” Leaf asks.

“Um, one’s salt water and one’s fresh water?”

“…You’re guessing, aren’t you?”

Red smiles. “Yeah. Am I right though?”

“No. We actually have no idea.”


“As far as we can tell, yeah, it seems pretty random.”

“How was that a fair question, then?”

“You should have just admitted that you don’t know!”

Red grumbles, scrolling for his own question. “Hm… ah, here. What’s themaximum horizontal airspeed velocity of a swellow?”

“Um… I think it was about 290 kilometers an hour.”

“Nope. Says 274.”

Leaf frowns. “That’s not right. Wait, is it a Unovan swellow or a Kantoswellow?”

“We don’t have swellow here actually, the closest live in Hoenn and Sinnoh.Are they faster in Unova?”

“Yeah, look.” She goes to its page on her dex and shows him. “Huh. The tailslook a bit different.”

“Yeah, I can see that one on mine too,” he flicks the picture aside and theUnovan swellow takes its place. “But there’s only one number. I think we founda bug, or at least an oversight.”

Leaf smiles. “In yours, yeah. Mine’s fine.”

“Well it is still in beta,” he says defensively. “Guess I’ll write a ticketfor Professor Oak.” He begins to awkwardly prop the dex up on one upraisedknee so he can navigate and type one handed.

“You want me to?”

“No, it’s okay. Are you hungry, by chance?”

“Yeah, I could use a snack.” She takes some granola bars out of her bag,settling it down just inside the circle of unburnt grass. She unwraps one andputs it on his stomach, then opens her own and begins to munch on thesweetened grains, stomach gurgling.

As they eat, a spark through the trees to her left makes her grab her pokedex.She’s about to press the button when a pichu dashes out of the bushes acrossthe clearing where they originally set up their sleeping bags, closely chasedby a spearow.

The bird pecks and claws at the small yellow rodent with its hooked beak andtalons, blood flying as the pichu squeaks and scrambles away. Leaf drops herpokedex and reaches for her belt, but then the fight is abruptly over: thepichu leaps away to get a moment of respite, and its red cheeks glow beforelancing a bolt out at the spearow, who drops out of the air and tumbles alongthe ground. It tries to rise, but the pichu sends another bolt at it, thenanother, and the spearow lies still, the sickening smell of burnt feathersfilling the air.

Leaf stares, hand over her mouth. The whole thing had happened in the space ofseconds, too fast for her to do anything. She watches the pichu send anotherspark out into the grass, seemingly at random. It’s ragged and bleeding, andbegins to crawl along the grass in a pained daze. Its nose wriggles as itsniffs its way toward them in a slow zigzag, and as it gets closer, she canhear a faint squeak with every exhale.

Her chest feels tight. “Red…”

He has his neck craned at an awkward angle to watch. “Yeah. Got a pokeball?”

“I do, but it’s too far to get a lock.”

“Do you think its parents might be nearby?”

“I think they would have shown up by now. Maybe it fell out of a tree and gotleft behind, or they were attacked by other wild pokemon…”

The pichu stops moving, ears twitching as it looks at them. It seems poised toflee, and Leaf’s pulse quickens. If it runs off into the forest with thosewounds, it’ll die.

“Red, got any shock potions?”

“A couple.”

“Could I have one?”

“Sure. What are you going to do?”

She opens his bag and finds one, pocketing it. “I’m going to try to catch it.”

He looks at her. “By leaving the rods? Bad idea, Leaf. It’s not as strong as apikachu, but it can still put you down with a strong enough bolt, and thenyou’re just another spearow.”

“I’ll have to risk it. It needs medical attention, and I can’t just leave itout there to die.”

“And what am I supposed to do if you do get shocked? Just scare it off andleave you lying out there?”

The pichu’s ears cock to the sides, then forward again. It’s too far forBulbasaur’s sleep powder, even if she wants to risk sending him out, which shedoesn’t: the sound and light would probably make it run off. But Red’s right,it’s too risky to leave the protection of the rods.

She could take one out and move it forward with her, but she would need toconstantly be planting it for it to be of any use: she can’t react faster thepichu can shock her. But if she could bring the pichu closer…

Leaf kneels down and begins breaking off little pieces of the granola. Shediscreetly draws her hand to the side, then tosses a piece of the granolaforward, moving only her wrist.

The pichu dashes away into the dark as the granola piece bounces over thegrass, and Leaf’s heart leaps into her throat. “No! Come back!” She wants tochase after it, catch it before it runs itself to death… but she can’t leaveRed here alone, even with the rods. There might be other spearow around. Sheswallows her sorrow and sits back down, staring at her granola bar and tryingnot to cry. First the hoothoot, now this…

“Leaf, look!” Red says, voice low.

She turns and sees the pichu returning, slowly crawling toward the bit ofgranola. Hardly daring to hope, she watches as it sniff at the granola, thenchars it with a quick spark of electricity and begins nibbling. Only then doesshe break off and toss out another piece, then another, each closer than thelast.

She takes out a pokeball once it starts to get close enough, but doesn’t throwit right away. If the pichu see the ball come at it, it might run for good.

Instead she rolls the rest of her granola bar over the blackened grass so thatit comes to rest past it. Once the pichu crawls over to the bar, Leaf quicklyremoves her shoes and socks.

“What are you doing?” Red hisses.

“Be right back,” she whispers, and starts to slowly move to the right towardthe pichu’s side, bare feet making almost no sound over the dead grass. Redlooks frustrated, but doesn’t say anything, simply raising his pokedex up,ready to sound the onix roar.

The pichu shocks the granola bar, inspects it, then does it again. From thisclose she can see the bloody scratch that runs down its back, and as soon asLeaf is outside of its peripheral vision, she expands two pokeballs and pointstheir lens, holding her breath…


The pichu twitches and turns to the sound, but she’s already throwing, thefirst one straight ahead, and then turning the hand with the second up to tossit overhead at the last moment, so that it arcs carefully up, then down ontothe pichu.

The pichu doesn’t dodge, sending a bolt at Leaf that travels through the firstball before hitting Leaf like a burning, tingling punch that goes straightfrom her outstretched arm and down her left side, into her foot and out intothe ground below. She collapses in pain as Red cries out, but even as shegrits her teeth over a scream, she sees the flash from the pokeball, hears therush of energy as it absorbs the pichu.

Ha… gotcha… _Her eyes water as curls into a ball. Swords of Justice, that_hurt!

“Leaf! Leaf are you okay!?”

“Think so… ” Leaf carefully checks her hand, then foot. There don’t seem to beany visible burns. “Yeah… I’m okay…” The left side of her body feels tense andsore, and she uses her right hand to take the shock potion out of her pocket,spraying them over her hand and arm first, then tucking them under her shirtto spray the rest of the wound down to her foot, skipping her leg. She feelsthe pain and soreness fade through her body, first on the surface, then intothe deeper tissue, and eventually in her leg as well, though not as much.

“Your heart is beating normally? What about your lungs, are you breathingalright?” Red stares at her anxiously as she stretches her arm, then triesstanding up.

“Yeah, I’m okay. Just some soreness.” She limps over to the pichu’s ball asRed sinks his head back in relief. Leaf smiles as she picks it up, thenreturns to sit beside Red, tugging her socks and shoes back on.

There’s a warm glow in her chest that she’s fairly sure doesn’t have to dowith being electrocuted. Unlike those that follow Ghetsis back home, shebelieves catching and training pokemon can be fundamentally for their own goodas well as people’s, as long as they’re treated with respect. Especially sincetamed pokemon usually live much longer than those in the wild, even withoutcounting the time spent in stasis in the pokeball.

Saving a pokemon from what would have been a sure death, however, makes thisthe first capture she that she really feels unambiguously good about.

It almost makes up for the hoothoot that died from her forgetfulness.

“Well, I’m glad you’re okay.” Red smiles. “Also, congratulations! They’repretty awesome pokemon, as you had plenty of occasion to see tonight.”

“Thanks. You guys said they’re rare, right?”

He grins. “Oh, yeah. Viridian Forest is practically the only place they’renative to in Kanto, and normally you’d be hard pressed to find any. I’m alittle jealous, to be honest: I’ve always wanted one.”

She looks at him, and something in her gaze makes his smile slowly fade.“What?”

“Red, if I asked you to do something for me, but didn’t tell you why, wouldyou do it?”

His pale, strained face becomes guarded. “That depends on what it is. But ifyou need help with something…”

“I do.” She looks down at the pichu’s ball, then smiles and holds her handout. “Could I see your pokedex for a minute?”

Red raises a brow, but hands it over silently. His curious expression turns toshock as she aligns the lens with the pokeball. “Wh-hey, Leaf, what…?”

They watch the screen fill with the image of the sleeping pichu, the pokedexlisting its mass, length, and other vitals. It’s dangerously low on blood, butnothing a pokemon center can’t fix. She places it back on his stomach, thenmeets his confused, wondering gaze. “She’s yours now. I want you to take her,okay?”

“I can’t… Leaf, get your dex and transfer it, her, over. I can’t accept that,why would you-”

“You can, and you will. Promise me you won’t do anything drastic, and thenI’ll tell you.”

Red’s brow creases, and she can almost see the gears turning in his head as hetries to figure out what and why…

“I reserve the right to keep arguing with you over this after, but… okay. Ipromise not to do anything drastic. Now why did you do that?”

“Because your hoothoot is dead.” Leaf looks away from him. “It’s my fault. Iforgot that you caught it, I forgot that it was on the ground. It gotelectrocuted when all the ‘chu were here. I… found it while I was walking andI didn’t… I couldn’t tell you…“ Her head dips down and she closes her eyes,throat tightening. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, Red, this is the least I can doto try and make up for it.”

There’s silence, and after a moment she gets her emotions under control andtakes a deep breath before looking up at him. He’s staring at her with a mixof shock and something she can’t interpret. “Are you angry?”

“I’m… a little upset that you lied,” he says carefully. “But no, I’m notangry. I understand. And I won’t say not to blame yourself, because I don’tthink you’ll listen if I do. And because maybe it’s okay to, a little bit.”

Leaf nods, some tension running out of her. “Thanks for understanding.”

“But Leaf, I still don’t think you should give her to me. A hoothoot for apichu is hardly a fair trade!” He blinks at her expression, quickly adding,“Unfair for you, is what I’m saying! Not as in the value of their lives… youknow what I meant! If you want to make it up to me, you can catch anotherhoothoot, but pichu are rare, and you got yourself shocked catching it!”

“And you got your arm broken catching that hoothoot.” She smiles. “Come on,we’ve given each other enough pokemon at this point. Think of it as paybackfor giving up your chance at one of the beedrill.”

He makes a face. “I didn’t want them anyway.”

“Still. Please, keep her. It’s the only way I’ll be able to have any peaceover it.”

Red wipes the sweat from his face, grimacing. “You shouldn’t argue withsomeone who’s injured, you know.”

“So just say yes.”

“I… oh, alright, I’ll keep her.” Red lets out a breath, fingers rubbing overthe red half of the pokeball. “Thank you.”

They sit in silence after that. Another distant roar sounds after a fewminutes, and Leaf wonders if Blue’s alright. The weight that had been over herheart since finding the hoothoot is partially lifted, and she watches with Redas he examines his new pokemon’s information.

Red has rarely found himself at a loss for words, but ten minutes after Leafregistered the pichu she caught to him, he still can’t quite think of theright thing to say. So he just reads over its information with her, and slowlygets used to the idea that he really has one now. He didn’t lie when he toldher he always wanted a pikachu: when he was younger he imagined catching oneand naming it Volta, or Faraday, or Tesla. Since the pichu is female thoughhe’ll have to think of something else. Maybe Ayrton?

It’s a bit sad that the hoothoot he caught is dead, but he didn’t really havea chance to bond with it, or even consider it his yet. He knows Leaf feelsmuch worse about it than he does, so he tries not to dwell on it. He soon hassomething else on his mind anyway.

The pinching pressure in Red’s arm grows worse and worse as the night passes,and eventually real pain starts to bleed through the numbness. The excitementwith the pichu distracted him from it for a bit, but an hour later he’sstruggling to last another minute without asking for more medication. Hedoesn’t want to risk any adverse side effects from using too much too soon,and tries to lose himself in their trivia game again.

Just as the pain begins to get unbearable, he hears the sound of rapidlyapproaching footsteps. “Leaf-”

She’s already standing, a pokeball in each hand as she faces the directionthey’re coming from, waiting to see what the newest threat is. After a momentRed realizes the ground is shaking, and dread fills him until the rhyhornsteps out from the darkness between the trees and into the light of theirlamp, the trainer on its back looking down at her phone.

The relief is so strong it actually makes the pain go away for a bit, and whenthe trainer looks up and smiles, he smiles back, though it probably looks morelike a grimace. “Got a distress signal from this area. That’s you, right?”

“Yeah. Did Blue send you?”

“Sorry, don’t know who that is. I’m from Pewter, came to help with the fire.We’ve got it under control now, and the pikachu around here seem to be gone.”She slides off her rhyhorn’s back and withdraws it, then walks over to them.She gives the lightning rods an appreciative look, then seems to notice allthe burnt grass. “Wow. What happened here?”

“It’s a long story,” Leaf says. “Can you help with his arm?”

“You bet. Why don’t you tell it while I work?” She takes a container out ofher pocket and opens it on the grass beside Red. Inside its box there are abunch of medical supplies, and after taking a few moments to examine Red’s armand ask some questions, she gets to work as Leaf explains what happened.

Red closes his eyes in relief as she gives him another local anesthetic, thisone stronger, and something to reduce the swelling. He barely feels it as sherealigns his bone and puts on a cast.

“Okay, that should do it for now. Let’s get you to Pewter, and they’ll takecare of the rest.”

Red just nods dreamily, exhaustion and the lack of pain making him nod off. Hethinks he hears something about Leaf staying behind to wait for Blue, andfeels a note of alarm about that, but when he opens his eyes to say somethinghe realizes he’s strapped onto the back of the rhyhorn as they travel throughthe forest. It’s surprisingly comfortable, and before he can say anything tothe rider (I don’t even know her name…) he’s already drifting back to sleep.

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