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When the little ship finally docked at Liberty Garden, an island that -- to Lea -- looked to be closer to a smaller city on a nearby shore than it was to Castelia, instead of disembarking with the rest of the passengers, Lea climbed over the metal railing that she had been sitting on, and hopped off the boat onto the grass. After a moment of deliberation (and Lea returning Ganon to his pokéball) N followed, his movements even more feline-esque than her own, as she turned her eyes to the large structure that dominated the center of the island. It was cylindrical in shape, and from what Lea could tell, it looked to be made out of metal; black and grey steel fused together, the two colors spiraling up to the top, where the metal cut away to reveal glass. It looked worn, as though years of sun, wind, and surf from the nearby ocean had stained it and weathered it smooth, and it was enough to make Lea think that the grey metal had once been white.

"So, that's Liberty Tower, huh?" she asked, and she didn't wait for a response. "It looks like a lighthouse. Why didn't they call it Liberty Lighthouse instead? That even rolls off the tongue easier! Liberty Lighthouse, Liberty Lighthouse . . ."

"It was constructed in 1886 to stand as a physical symbol not only of Unova's independence and freedom, but also as a symbol of unity between humans and pokémon." The information rolled off N's tongue easily enough to almost sound as though he had it memorized, and he scoffed derisively. "Though Liberty Tower was constructed to represent the unity and freedom of both humans and pokémon, I would say humans are the only ones that are free."

"Uh-huh." Lea would be the first to admit that she wasn't really listening to him as she looped around, closer to the grand structure. The second he had begun rattling off dates, facts, and figures she'd tuned him out, instead trying to see what the other guests to the island apparently saw. Back closer to the boat a man in a loud, floral print shirt was taking pictures, and small children 'oooh'd' and 'ahhh'd' as they pointed their sticky little fingers at the lighthouse. But although she craned her neck back as far as she could to see to the very top, where the two-toned metal gave way to the glass that allowed the beams of light to shine through, Lea couldn't see anything impressive. It was a lighthouse. Big deal! Was that really what she'd paid three hundred and fifty pokédollars to see? "So, is this it?"

"What do you mean?" N came up to stand next to her, and she tore her eyes away from the lighthouse to look back at him as she gestured toward it with one hand.

"Does it just stand here and look pretty? 'Cause seriously, if that's all it does, I'm already bored and I wanna go back. There was way more to do in Castelia than just look at some giant black 'n' white thing." N considered her for a moment before a small smile curled his lips, and he walked a few paces away, hands in his pockets.

"Well, there is more, if you know where to look."

"Where to look?" Lea gave him a bemused look, and followed after. "What's that supposed to mean? Spill it, Bob Skillet. If there's something fun and-or dangerous here, I wanna know." She blinked as he offered his hand to her, waggling his fingers enticingly.

"Come with me, and I'll show you."

Lea stared at him a moment more before she bared her teeth in a grin, and took his hand in a white-knuckled grip. He didn't seem to mind the forcefulness of her grip and returned it, tugging her toward him across the grass as he started to run around the lighthouse. But rather than let him lead her, Lea started sprinting, dragging him so forcefully he nearly tripped.

"If we're going to run, we're going to run!" she told him, looking back at him rather than ahead, where she was going. "There's no use in it if you're just gonna jog! Who jogs? Jogging's for wusses and failpuppets!"

"You don't know where you're going," he called back, and without breaking stride, Lea shrugged at him.

"So?!"

Instead of answering her verbally, N grinned, and put on a sudden spurt of speed so that he pulled ahead, causing Lea to stumble a bit as she ran. He didn't have to say anything for her to get the message. He had accepted her challenge--she finally had someone who was willing to run with her, willing to race her. And if there was one thing that Lea would never, ever do, it was turn down someone who was willing to race, even if they were still holding hands.

So it happened that, as they ran around the massive structure, acting more like a pair of wild things than normal tourists, they constantly fought to remain in the lead, pushing themselves to the limit of endurance and speed. At about the same height and build, neither one had a significant physical advantage over the other, and as a result, by the time they reached the destination N had in mind, they were running side by side. Still, N slowed as they reached the hidden door, and jerked Lea back so that she wouldn't keep running past him. She stumbled as she turned, and though she tried to regain her balance, she tripped just badly enough to fall back into him, causing him to trip over his own feet as he tried to maintain his balance, and both of them to tumble onto the grass.

"Dude, what the hell," Lea said, and she released his hand to untangle herself from him, jumping back onto her feet so she could brush it off and try to pretend the humiliating lack of grace never happened. "If that was your way of trying to cheat, it totally didn't work. Even if you did cause me to trip -- and not even that I tripped, 'cause that whole thing? It was so on purpose--but even if you did cause me to trip, I was still in the lead when you pulled that flashy little stunt, so hah! I still won!" She stuck her tongue out at him as he stood up, not even bothering to dust the grass off his jeans. "Winner, winner, blue-ribbon pinner, that's me."

"I don't understand the meaning of your words, but we're here," N said, and he waved one hand to indicate what, to Lea, looked like part of the same dual-colored metal that comprised the rest of the lighthouse. She raised her eyebrows at him.

"Uh, is this supposed to impress me? 'Cause if so, you're doing a suck job at it." Instead of being offended, he smiled.

"Watch." N walked over to the side of the lighthouse and ran his fingers along it, carefully feelng along the edges between each metal sheet as though looking for something. A few seconds passed before Lea folded her arms and tapped her foot a bit impatiently, but when she opened her mouth to ask him if he was trying to find his way to Narnia or not, he grinned, and pulled part of the metal away from the side of the lighthouse.

Or at least, that was what she thought he did, at first.

In truth, all he did was slide open a hidden door, revealing a dark entryway just on the other side. Lea's mouth dropped open a little as N reached inside of the doorway and flicked on a light, which lit up the inside with a bright fluorescent glow. He tuned back to her with a smug grin, rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet, his hands in his pockets. "Impressed?" he asked. Lea scoffed.

"That you found some cool secret door that leads to some kind of ultra cool secret pathway that's probably the super cool secret base of some ultra-powerful, crazed supervillain? Pfft. Never." Lea walked past him to step into the entryway of the lighthouse, and as N followed her inside, he shut the secret door behind them. "How'd you even know this was here?"

"I studied Liberty Tower some time ago. It's important that I know everything about Unova, particularly anything pertaining to its history and legends. Liberty Tower is part of that."

The space they were standing in, though lit with bright lights, was cramped. It was small and completely concrete, and while Lea was impressed at first because she hadn't expected it to be there, she could feel her interest quickly waning. In an attempt to keep it from escaping her completely, Lea ran her hands along the walls, trying to find something of note like he had.

"So," she asked, in what she hoped was a casual voice, "is this all there is?" N folded his arms, and leaned back against the wall with the secret door.

"That's a stupid thing to ask," he said, and she scowled at him. "You realize what this is, don't you? That door leads to this room, which in turn leads to this door," he knocked a fist on the wall next to him, and in the bright light Lea could realize it was colored a little differently than the surrounding concrete, "which leads to a staircase that maintenance staff can take to the top of the lighthouse. There, they can ensure that the lighthouse is in proper working order, as well as control when it's in operation, what strength the beam is at, et cetera."

"The lighthouse control room, huh? Sounds exciting." N must have picked up on the sarcasm in Lea's tone, for he smirked.

"This room also has this door." He knocked his fist on the wall on his other side, and again, Lea noted that the wall looked a bit discolored where he tapped. "This door leads to a staircase, which leads to the basement of Liberty Tower. Legend says that--"

"The basement?" Lea interrupted, and she couldn't help herself; she started to grin. "You mean some creepy, crawly basement filled with all manners of horrors and spectres and weird, goopy things in jars that we probably shouldn't drink, but if we did drink would end up turning us into some twisty, grisly monster dripping with pink slime and tentacles that grow out of our eye sockets? That kind of basement?" N stared at her for a moment, blank-faced before her excitement, before he said in a serious tone:

"The legends never said anything about that."

"Don't care. Let's do it!" Lea reached past him to fumble for the wall paneling, and though it took a minute for her to find the right groove, she managed to fit her fingers around the edge to slide the panel back, revealing the door and a narrow, winding stone staircase. There were no lights for this staircase, but there was a thin, unfinished wooden railing, and Lea -- never the type to let a little darkness scare her away -- grabbed the railing as she took the basement stairs, two at a time. N followed quickly after, and he left the secret door open to afford them at least a little light as they started down.

"Do you know anything of the Unova legends, Lea?" N asked. "Particularly anything pertaining to the legendary pokémon Victini?"

"Nope. Why? Is it some kind of super-destructive, all-powerful, force of nature, god-tier pokémon?"

"No. Well, perhaps, but not in the way you're implying. Not everything is about power, or destruction."

"All the interesting stories are. Oh!" Lea hopped off the second to last step, nearly bumping into a wall as she did so. "Hey, I think this is another door! Gimme a second, let me jimmie it . . . boo yah!" She slid the door open, allowing them entrance to a new room, though it was too dark to see anything. "Now, if we can just find some lights . . ."

"There weren't any notes on this room beyond the fact that it existed. I don't know where the lights are," N said. Lea didn't respond, and instead fumbled with the buttons on her C-Gear, hitting them at random until she managed to activate the flashlight function, causing a little halo of light to flare up from her wrist. Grinning, she cast the light from her C-Gear around the room until she finally managed to locate a dusty string dangling from the ceiling. Darting over, Lea grabbed it and tugged, causing a bare bulb to sputter to life and illuminate the room with an orange glow.

Truth be told, the fact that there was only one source of light in the room didn't surprise Lea. Nor did the fact that said source of light was only a bare bulb,  nor did the fact that the bare bulb was activated by a piece of dirty string. All of that fit right according to plan to her, for while she didn't have any real life experience when it came to creepy basements, she'd seen enough television and read enough comic books to know what the situation was supposed to be like.

But it was for that very reason that she found herself baffled, and then disappointed.

It wasn't a creepy basement at all. Instead, the circular room -- far more cozy than the basement of a giant lighthouse any right being -- was dusty, but homely. Instead of concrete, the floor was covered with a thin blue carpet, with galaxy designs on it. The walls didn't have wallpaper, but they were painted with chipped cream paint that looked old, but still neatly applied. There were toys strewn about the floor, such as a little train and various balls, and picture books with pieces of the pages missing as though chewed away. Lea frowned as she walked across the room, nudging a few of the balls with her foot, while N himself darted straight to a pile near the right wall.

"The hell is all this?" Lea asked after a moment, and she crouched down by a small pile of balls. A cream colored one was right in front of her, a little orange V seemingly taped on. "Who fills a creepy basement with space carpet and toys? Seriously, what TV shows did they ever watch?"

"It's not about television." N was sorting through one of the piles of toys, carefully moving each one out of the way, as if looking for something. "The legends of Liberty Tower say that the legendary pokémon Victini is supposed to rest in the basement, awaiting the worthy Hero to come free it. These toys are probably here for Victini's amusement, but I don't understand. Where is Victini? There's no way it could have left. I've never been here before."

"Huh. Beats me. I don't even know what a 'Victini' is." Lea looked away from N to look back at the balls by her feet, and out of an impulse to poke something in a vain effort to amuse herself, she reached out and nudged the cream colored ball with her finger, and then froze.

The first thing she noticed was that instead of being made out of rubber, the cream colored ball was covered in fur.

The second thing she noticed was that it didn't roll when she nudged it. Instead, it just jolted a little.

The third thing she noticed was that, after its initial twitch, it uncurled and revealed itself not to be a ball at all, but a little creature, instead.

If she was standing, the little creature would probably only be ankle-height, with the tips of its ridiculously large, orange, v-shaped ears reaching her calves. Ears, claws, and feet aside, the little creature was mostly cream colored, with two wings on its lower back, and big blue eyes. For a moment, Lea stared at the little creature, and the little creature stared just as blankly back at her. Two more heartbeats passed before the little creature's mouth opened in a large, toothy grin, and it held up one paw with its claws separated into a clear 'v for victory' pose.

"You are the kookiest little thing I have ever seen," Lea said, and the little creature's ears twitched as it bounced on its feet excitedly, still holding its paw up in the victory pose.

"I don't know what that means, but thank you," N said from across the room. Lea rolled her eyes, and picked the little creature up by one of its ears, holding it in front of her face for closer examination.

"Not you, Spock. I mean this . . . this thing. I think I found your 'Victini,' or whatever."

Something clattered behind her, and immediately afterward N ran across the room, stopping at a quick halt behind her. It occurred to her that he was standing stock still -- far more still than she'd ever seen him stand before -- but as soon as the thought entered her mind he moved to strike her wrist, causing her to drop Victini on the ground. She reached out and punched him in the leg.

"Hey, jerk-off, don't hit me."

"Don't hold a pokémon like that," he snapped back, and he crouched down beside her, his eyes on Victini even as he reprimanded her. "It could hurt them, and it's disrespectful, especially to a pokémon such as this." His voice took on a breathless note near the end, and he held one hand out to Victini as the small creature looked over at him. "It's an honor to meet you, Victini. My name is N. I've come to liberate you from your cruel imprisonment."

Victini continued to stare at N blankly for a moment before its attention switched back to Lea, another radiant grin splitting its furry face as it hopped up and down excitedly. N frowned, and Lea reached out to pick up Victini, and turn it to face N again.

"He's the one talking to you, little thing," Lea said, setting it back down on the ground. "Talk to him." Despite her words, Victini turned right back to her, chittering something excitedly, sounding -- in Lea's humble opinion -- like the bird pokémon that were fond of chirping at two a.m. outside of her bedroom window. "No, Thing, not me. I don't want to talk to you. Talk to him." Once again, she turned Victini toward N, but once again, Victini only stared at N for a second before looking back to her. Finally, Lea stood up and started walking backward, pointing to N even as Victini hopped after her. "Stupid Thing, I already told you, he wants to talk to you, not me!"

"Don't call Victini a 'stupid thing,'" N said coldly, standing up. Lea looked from Victini to N, but she gestured to the small creature hopping after her.

"Well, what do you want me to call it, huh? You're the one trying to talk to it about liberation or whatever, and I want nothing to do with it, but it's obsessed with me." Lea looked down to find Victini sitting by her feet, grinning up at her in apparent adoration. "I think it imprinted on me like a baby torchic, or something. Y'know, like how the first thing a baby torchic sees is its mom, even if it's not? So like, I poked Thing, and Thing woke up and saw me, and was all like, 'ooh, mommy!' and I'm like, 'no, dude, N's your mommy,' but Thing's just not having it. I think that's what happened." Lea turned her attention back to Victini, and pointed to N. "He's your mommy, Thing. Go chitter at him."

Far from wanting to chitter at N, however, Victini suddenly leaped three feet into the air and hovered there, its little wings flapping, a faint orange glow surrounding it. It floated a little higher so that it could stare at Lea at eye level, before it finally floated up to land on her hat. Lea sighed, and looked over at N.

"I mean, I guess it can chitter at you from my head, if it wants. Arceus damn it."

"You should be honored that Victini wants to ride on your head -- you should consider yourself blessed," N said, and though his tone was still a bit cold, there was something else there that Lea couldn't quite identify. "But I don't understand. Why would Victini choose you and not me?" His voice became quieter, as though he was talking to himself even as he stared at Victini. "I'm the Hero. I'm the one that's supposed to . . . so why you?"

"Dude, I don't know. It's not like I wanted the thing. It just kind of chose me." N's eyes snapped back to Lea's, and he glared at her.

"Stop calling Victini a 'thing'."

"It has no discernable gender, it sounds like a bird, it has big eyes and ears, and it can fly," Lea said flatly. "It's a thing. Right, Thing?" Victini chittered happily from her head, and Lea pointed one finger up at it. "Thing has spoken."

N frowned at her a second more before he looked up to Victini, his expression softening. "Are you sure you're all right with that, Victini?" he asked. Victini chirped, and something in that chirping must have meant something to N, for he sighed, his shoulders slumping a little. "Fine. If it's all right with you, I guess it's all right with me."

"Good. So, now that we've appeased you, your majesty, how's about we get outta here?" A strange looked crossed N's face, which Lea figured was due to her sarcastic joke, but as far as she was concerned, if he didn't want to be treated like an uppity prince, then he shouldn't act like one. "'Cause it only just occurred to me, but that boat crew has no idea that we're down here, right? So they could leave at any time, and if they leave without us, we're kinda screwed."

"My friends could always help us back," N said, and it was Lea's turn to give him a strange look.

"What friends? I didn't know zombies had friends. And anyway, can zombies even swim?" Lea shook her head as N stared at her, and Victini dug its claws into her hat to hang on. "Whatever, never mind, doesn't matter. Let's just book it back to the boat, 'kay? Last one there has to buy lunch!" Without another word, Lea turned and bolted for the door, taking the stairs two at a time as Victini clung to her hat for dear life. N followed after, though he took the time to click the light off first, and shut the door to Victini's room behind him.

As it turned out, Lea was right to run; as the two of them raced toward the pier where the tourist boat was docked, the sailors were hoisting up the anchors in preparation for setting sail. Lea shouted at them to stop as best she could while running, flailing her arms frantically, but in the end, it was Victini blowing a burst of fire from its mouth that caught the sailor's attention and secured them a ride onboard.

"Man, who would've guessed that Thing could breathe fire?" Lea said, once they were safely back on deck, leaning against the railing again. Both she and N were a bit out of breath due to sprinting up the stairs and then across the island, but as she relaxed against the railing and focused on her breathing, she could feel it evening out. Victini clung to the railing beside her, swinging back and forth with a silly grin on its face. "That'll come in handy in the future, because of reasons."

N said nothing, and Lea looked over to see that he was staring at her, an inscrutable expression on his face. She raised her eyebrows.

"Okay, dude? What's with the crazy eyes? Are you pissed off about the zombie jokes? 'Cause I was just joking, y'know? I don't actually think you're a zombie."

"It's not that." N looked away to look back out at the ocean, his fingers drumming a four-beat rhythm against the metal railing. Lea also looked back out at the ocean, and if there was ever a part of her that thought N had at least a few marbles to spare, she wanted to correct that part and assure herself that, no, he really had lost all of them. "Do you know anything about the Unova legends? Anything at all? Anything about the stories of Zekrom, Reshiram, and the destined Hero?"

"I think my mom or dad told me those stories once, like, forever ago. Don't remember too much about 'em, except there was something about a war, and one of the dragons breathed fire, and I thought it'd be really cool if they started eating people, so then I pretended to be the fire-breathing one while all of my action figures were innocent townsfolk, and then my dad pretended to be the Hero so he could slay me and save the people." N looked over at Lea with a scandalized look as she grinned. "Good times. But anyway, if you want a story about a destined hero, you should play some of the Legend of Zelda games."

"Legend of Zelda games?" N deadpanned, yet although he was frowning at her, he asked after a moment, "What are those?" Lea smacked a palm to her forehead.

"Ugh, is there anything that you actually know about? Anything? First The Avengers, and now this--although maybe I should tell you about The Avengers first, since you're totally Captain Unova." She hopped up onto the railing again, and Victini swung itself up to sit in her lap. N's frown deepened, but this time in confusion rather than disapproval.

"Captain Unova?"

"Yeah, he's this failbucket of a soldier who was injected with super serum and a truckload of radiation so that he could be a superhero, only you're him because he's from, like, the 40s, and so he doesn't get any references about anything ever, just like you don't . . ."

- - -

"Okay, here we are! Good luck, Blair! I'm sure you're going to do great."

Bianca gave Blair the most encouraging smile she could as they stopped in front of the Castelia City Gym, and she could tell from his expression that he was trying to smile back, but couldn't quite manage it. He fiddled with the pocket of his pullover for a moment, looking over at the Gym doors, before he looked back at her.

"Are you sure you . . . um, I mean, we could--I'm sure we could challenge together--"

"I would, but I promised I'd meet Lea at four to get Castelia Cones, and it's three forty, now," Bianca said, and her apologetic look brightened again as another thought occurred to her. "You could always come with me, if you want!" Blair shook his head quickly.

"Thanks, but I really want to get my badge, and . . . and Lea's . . ." he trailed off, and Bianca laughed.

"She's a lot to handle, isn't she?" He nodded. "Well, that's okay. I'm sure we'll see each other again soon." Bianca gave him a pat on the shoulder before she turned away. "Take care, Blair! And good luck!" She watched him turn and enter the Gym before she turned fully, skipping down the street with a smile on her face.

It was stupid of her to feel so bubbly, she knew. Truth be told, she barely knew Blair. They'd spent time together while guarding the Nacrene City Museum, and they'd spent the entire morning in Castelia together, but . . . that was nothing! It was hardly anything. They were friends, at best -- just friends, and it wasn't as if the whole 'friendship' thing was new to Bianca. She'd been friends with Lea and Cheren longer than she could remember.

But with Blair, it was different. Maybe it was because he was so new. Bianca had befriended Lea and Cheren so long ago that they felt more like siblings than friends, whereas with Blair, there was still so much she could learn and discover, from his favorite books to his favorite flavor of ice cream. And spending time with him was different, too; if she spent time alone with Lea, she found herself getting dragged around to whatever new adventure Lea had discovered, whereas spending time alone with Cheren usually included watching whatever new science fiction show he was into, or working with him on his latest creation. With Blair, most of their time was spent talking, even if they explored new places. Sure, she was the one that did most of the talking, but she could tell that Blair really listened, and everything he did say had meaning, even if his nervousness made him take a little bit to say it.

Bianca bit her lip to keep her smile from growing too large as she remembered the way he'd opened up when discussing his favorite books, but had quieted down and listened with rapt attention as she shared her own opinions. He was so sweet. She truly did hope she'd have more time to hang out with him before either of them left Castelia City.

By the time she reached the Castelia City cart, it was already four o' clock, and the line in front of it was massive. Bianca scanned the line to look for Lea, but a shout from across the street caught her ears instead. Lea was sitting on a bench, one Castelia Cone in each hand, and Bianca grinned as she hurried over, gratefully taking her Castelia Cone from Lea once she was near enough.

"Oh, thank you! You didn't have to buy one for me, though."

"Are you crazy? Can you see that line? Dude, if I'd waited for you to get here, all of the ice cream would be melted by the time you tried to get one." Lea shook her head, and then looked to the bench next to her, pushing a little pokémon to the side as she did so. "Thing, move over. Make room for Bi."

"Ooh, who is this little one?" Bianca knelt down by the bench in lieu of taking the little creature's seat, which seemed to be just fine with it. Its ears twitched as Bianca approached, and though it had a little cardboard carton of fries that it was munching on, its nose wiggled in the direction of Bianca's ice cream. Lea reached over and lightly tapped the pokémon on the head.

"No, Thing. No ice cream. Eat your fries." To Bianca, Lea said, "That's just Thing, don't let it bother you. Go on, take a seat!"

"I could never be bothered by such a cute little guy, but you and your names . . ." Bianca sat down on the bench, and used her free hand to root around in her bag for her Pokédex. Once she managed to pull it out, she slid it open and pointed it at the little creature, as he made a happy little chirruping sound around a mouth of fry. Her Pokédex dinged as it recognized the target.

"VICTINI. A legendary pokémon. No current information available."</b>

"A legendary pokémon?" Bianca gasped, and her head turned toward Lea so quickly her neck popped. "Lea, wherever did you capture him?!"

"I didn't. It just sorta stalks me on its own. 'Sides, I tried to capture it once we got back here, and it just played with the Ultra Ball I tossed at it, so. Bee-tee-dubs,  your ice cream is melting everywhere." As Lea said this, she took a large bite out of the remainder of her ice cream, and immediately hissed and winced, putting a hand to her head. Bianca hastily licked up the vanilla trails that were leaking down her cone, though her eyes swiveled back around to Victini, who continued to happily eat the fries out of the carton.

"You can't capture him?" she asked after a moment, and Lea crunched through her cone, speaking around a mouth of it.

"Nope. Dude, watch. It has some kind of freaky psychic power that it uses to keep from being captured." Lea fished an Ultra Ball out of her bag, hit the center button once, and tossed it over to Victini. To Bianca's amazement, a red glow surrounded the Ultra Ball, and Victini -- its fries momentarily forgotten -- began to bounce the 'ball on its head, looking delighted with its new toy.

"Victini is keeping the Ultra Ball closed . . ." Bianca said in a hushed voice. She paused, and then looked back at Lea. "Why do you keep calling him 'it'?"

"It doesn't have a gender, so it's not a 'him,'" Lea answered, and she reached across Bianca's lap to swipe the Ultra Ball off Victini's head. Victini let out a sad chirp, its ears drooping. "You can have this back when you finish your fries," Lea told it sternly. "You wanted them so badly, you're gonna finish 'em." Victini looked at its fries with a blank look for a moment before a broad grin split its face, and it immediately began digging in again, wrapping its tiny paws around each fry individually. Bianca smiled.

"It's so cute! Where did you find it, even if you didn't catch it?"

"Liberty Tower. I bought a ticket off this scalper in an alley and took a boat ride out there. Besides Thing, there's nothing too interesting out there, so if some dude tries to pressure you into buying a ticket, say no." Lea finished off her ice cream cone and glanced over to Bianca's, which was once again dripping due to her preoccupation with Victini. "Bi, are you gonna finish that, or just let it melt all over your skirt?"

"Huh? Oh!" Bianca once again hastily licked up the melting ice cream, and then grinned at Lea, sticking her tongue between her teeth. "Sorry. Victini is really distracting."

"Yeah, I'll say. It's on its third carton of fries already," Lea groused. "And the only reason I bought those stupid fries is because stupid Thing practically mauled the fry vendor down the street. I had to pry it off the guy's face--and don't you look at me like that, Thing. You know it's true!" Victini made an indignant chirping sound before it went back to munching on its fries, and Bianca continued to clean up her ice cream cone. "But anyway, enough about Thing. What've you done all day?"

"Blair and I explored the city together -- well, after we tried completing surveys, anyway. The surveys were boring, but we found a giant bookstore!" Bianca couldn't help the excitement in her voice, even as she saw the interest fade a little in Lea's eyes.

"Oh. Books."

"You would have really liked this store, Lea, I promise," Bianca said earnestly. As Lea gave her a look that plainly said she disagreed, Bianca added, "No, really. They had an enormous section of comic books!" A little bit of interest returned to Lea's eyes.

"Comic books?"

"Yes. New ones and old ones--some of the ones they had there were ones I think you already own, but they had tons! I'll have to show you later." Lea nodded appreciatively, a little smile on her lips.

"Yeah, that'd be pretty kickin'. What else didja see? I haven't seen too much since I got sidetracked on Liberty Garden Island, and then Thing was being annoying, and yadda yadda."

"Hmm . . . well, we saw some street performers. Ooh, and there was this giant toy store, too! There were some guys dancing on a giant piano there, like that scene in that one movie."

"Dude, kickass! I wanna try it!"

"You should! I'll try it with you. Oh, and there was also an arcade, and an art museum! And there's a performance theatre hall that's going to be putting on a stage performance of The Liepard King later." Bianca squeezed her ice cream cone a little tighter in excitement, even as she licked up more of the melting mess. "I'm going to go see it. Do you want to come?"

"Hmm . . . maybe. I dunno if I wanna sit still for that long," Lea said, and Bianca knew Lea well enough to know that a 'maybe' said in that tone of voice, especially with that (very honest) excuse, meant 'no.' "You might be able to get Cheren to go with you, though, even though he ran off like a scalded skitty the second we got here."

"You did, too," Bianca pointed out, though she looked up thoughtfully. "Although, I wonder where he went? He seemed really tense ever since we left Nacrene City."

"Did he?" Lea rubbed at the back of her neck, frowning in thought. "Huh. Maybe. I dunno, I just kinda figured he was like that 'cause he's Cheren, and he's always got his shirt buttons buttoned too tight."

"Well, yes," Bianca said, giggling a little. Lea grinned. "But there was something more than that, too." Lea drummed her fingers on the wooden bench, in clear impatience for Bianca to finish her ice cream so they could leave, and Bianca -- sensing this -- took a slightly bigger bite of her ice cream than necessary, though not big enough to give herself a brain freeze as Lea had. After a moment, though, she felt something prickling on the back of her neck, and she surreptitiously glanced over her shoulder. "Hey, Lea? Is it just me, or is that guy over there staring at us something fierce?"

"Yeah," Lea sighed. "He's kind of a freak like that. Hey! N!" Bianca couldn't muster up any surprise as Lea shifted to kneeling on the bench to give herself a bit more height, yelling over Bianca's head. "Either knock it off and leave or knock it off and get over here, but either way, knock it off! You look like a gargoyle!"

Bianca turned to look at N properly, watching as he scowled at Lea from his position on the back of another bench a few feet away. Standing up on the back of the bench with more grace than Bianca would have thought possible, N hopped down to the ground and then strode over, his expression stormy. Bianca tried to offer him a smile, but he was too busy scowling at Lea to notice.

"I don't even know what a gargoyle is," he said flatly. Lea rolled her eyes.

"Of course you don't, what else is new? A gargoyle is a statue that comes to life whenever it's nighttime so that it can protect the city it guards from danger. Duh." Bianca laughed a little, though quickly hid it by taking a bite of her cone.

"Actually, Lea, real life gargoyles don't--"

"So a gargoyle is a type of pokémon?" N asked, a frown in his voice as well as on his lips. "It masquerades as a statue before revealing itself at night? But no, that's ridiculous. I know everything about pokémon, and gargoyles are not pokémon."

"Did I ever say they were pokémon? Jeez, Mr. Freeze, get your hearing checked." Lea gently took Bianca's wrist, and pulled her hand over so that she could take a bite out of Bianca's Castelia Cone. "Anyway, N, this is my friend Bianca. Bi, this is N. He's a weirdo, but he's pretty chillin' other than that."

"Is "chillin'" good or bad?" N asked, and Lea grinned.

"Good."

"Oh. Okay." N nodded stiffly in Bianca's direction. "Nice to meet you, I guess."

"Nice to meet you, too," Bianca said slowly, feeling uneasy with how cold he seemed toward her. Lea seemed to pick up on it, too.

"Hey. Don't glare at Bianca. If you're gonna glare at her, you can just clear off, 'kay?" N scowled at Lea.

"I'm glaring at both of you. Do you both even realize what you're eating?"

"Um, ice cream?" Bianca tried. N nodded stiffly again and folded his arms, tapping his fingers rapidly against them.

"Yes. Ice cream, which is created from milk, which was harvested from an innocent pokémon--"

"Oh, not this again," Lea groused, and she put a palm to her face. "Dude, N, seriously, ice cream is delicious--"

"They could have made that by murdering vanillish, and you--"

"Dude, seriously?" Lea interrupted, and once again she took Bianca's wrist, holding it up so that N could get a clearer view of the cone. "That's a waffle cone. I'm pretty sure it was never ripped out of a vanllish's small intestine. Bi even has a Pokédex, so she can look one up and show you if you want." Bianca looked over at Lea with a questioning look.

"Lea, you have a Pokédex too. Did something happen to yours?"

"I traded it to some kid for his DS Lite, since he had the special Zelda edition and I really wanted to play Spirit Tracks." Bianca's expression shifted to one of horror, and Lea hastily added, "Don't tell Juni-baby, okay? She'll flip all the tables in Nuvema Town if you do. And don't tell Cheren, either, 'cause he'll tell Juni-baby first thing. You know he will."

"Okay, but Lea,  how could you have . . ." Bianca sighed, and her shoulders slumped. "Never mind. Here, take the rest of this. Talking about vanillish intestines sort of made me lose my appetite." She handed the rest of her ice cream cone to Lea, who took it happily, which was no surprise given that Bianca was pretty sure Lea could talk about intestines all night without ever losing her appetite. Bianca looked over at N. "So, N, are you vegan?"

"Yes," N said shortly. "Unlike some people, I could never live with myself if I ate something that was created at the expense of pokémon suffering--especially at the expense of pokémon murder." Lea rolled her eyes.

"It's the circle of life," she said around a mouthful of ice cream cone. "Go see The Liepard King with Bi later if you don't believe me."

"It's different!" N insisted. "Pokémon eat each other in the wild because they have to. Humans slaughter pokémon for--"

"Yeah, yeah, whatevs, yadda yadda, don't wanna hear it," Lea interrupted bluntly. N huffed angrily, scowling at her as she wiped residual ice cream off on her shorts. "Look, if you're gonna go from being Captain Unova to Captain Buzzkill, you can just skedaddle. Bi and I are gonna have adventures, right, Bi?" Bianca nodded as Victini, its fries finished, chirruped loudly. "Oh, and Thing, too."

"What sorts of adventures?" N asked, and though his tone was still sulky, Bianca detected a note of curiosity in there. Lea, her moods ever changing, grinned.

"Remember those weird clown dudes we saw on our way over here? I talked to one in line for the Castelia Cones, and he gave me this." She reached into her pocket and pulled out a badly wrinkled piece of paper, which she smoothed out to reveal a flyer. Bianca and N both leaned over, and from her upside down vantage point, Bianca saw that it was a flyer for some sort of contest. "They're holding a city wide scavenger hunt! All we have to do is hunt down those clowns and get some kind of stamp from them or something, and we win."

"What do we win?" Bianca asked. Lea shrugged.

"Dunno. Who cares? The point is, it's a competition, and if there's one thing I don't lose, it's competitions." Lea crumpled up the flyer again and stuffed it back in her pocket, grinning at Bianca and N. "So, you guys in?"

"So long as we're done by about six forty. That's what time the show starts," Bianca said, as she and Lea stood up from the bench. Victini hopped over to float up and sit on Lea's head again, its ears twitching in earnest. Bianca smiled at it as N tapped his foot.

"I suppose I could participate. The clowns should be easy enough to spot." Lea's grin became fierce, and she punched her fist into the opposite palm.

"Hell yeah they will. All righty, dream team, it's go time. Operation: Clown Hunt is on like Donkey Kong!" N opened his mouth, and Lea waved him off. "I know, I know, you don't understand that reference. Jeez, remind me to take you to the arcade later, so you can fail a little less at life."

"I do not fail at life," N muttered, as the three of them began walking. As Lea insisted that he did, and went on to list examples of why he did, Bianca smiled.

With so much to do and so much to see, she truly did love Castelia City.
OK. So this chapter is 20 pages long, but I think we'll still be out of Castelia City by the end of chapter six. Probably. We'll see. I'm starting to realize that things aren't quite going as planned in relation to these characters -- most notably Cheren, who just . . .

Well. I can discuss this in the notes. Going down through the chapter . . .

--The quote at the top will be used both for this chapter and for chapter six, because it's Castelia City in a nutshell as far as I'm concerned.

--The Wellington Industries got some nice mention here since it'll be relevant in Book Two. Yaaay foreshadowing.

--Originally, I was going to have the Game Freak company be a sort of leaning-on-the-fourth-wall joke as they are in the games, with Cheren bursting in there and just kind of scaring them into giving him information. I figured that it would work, since Game Freak "created" the world (haha fourth wall) and so they would thus have information on his father.

But then, in the midst of writing, suddenly they became this mafia-esque company, and they became ultra powerful, and suddenly contracts were being signed and Cheren was signing himself over, and basically I just lost control of the scene. I don't believe in that whole "writers don't have control over what happens in their story" bit, because I could have deleted it, but I honestly enjoyed where it was going and so I just went with it. I know it's maybe a bit comical since it's Game Freak, but at the same time, the characters in those buildings in the games represent the people that made those games. They literally DO have all the information about that world. It's only fitting that they're that powerful in-universe.

As for what Cheren's deal amounts to be, we'll find that out later.

--Boundaries is based off Borders. R.I.P. Borders.

--I probably should have given the Discworld series a Bland Name Product switch, but I just couldn't. I love Discworld too much, so in it stays.

--"Scalper is such a harsh word" is something a scalper said to me when I was a teenager trying to buy a concert ticket off him.

--"Prof Slader" is a reference to Professor Slader from Community, who was a flat character that only existed to serve up some relationship drama between Jeff and Britta. Technically Lea shouldn't know what Community is because of the year, but you know what, whatever. It's hard to keep my pop culture straight sometimes.

--N really is Captain Unova, at least insofar as not understanding any references. Following that line of thought, Lea would be Thor (because she is brazen and overconfident but fiercely loyal), Bianca would be Black Widow (spoilers), Blair would be Hawkeye (it just fits in my head), and Cheren would be Tony Stark/Iron Man. Aww yeah, Avengers.

--It's been ages since I played the Liberty Pass scene, and I can't do it again, so I basically just winged it. The look of the Liberty Tower was completely made up by moi, therefore, and the year of construction is a reference to when the Statue of Liberty was dedicated to the US.

--Some of you may remember that, ages ago, I wrote a one-shot dedicated to Lea and N's relationship (called, embarrassingly enough, "Lea and N") that kinda-sorta-not-really novelized the games. And you might remember that, in that one-shot, Lea partnered up with a Victini, which she called "Thing." And those who read that might remember asking me if "Thing" would make an appearance in later writings, and I said "yes." Here is my proof. I am a woman of my word. (Also, I deleted that embarrassingly bad one-shot, since it no longer jives with this canon anyway.)

--"Thing," by the by, is a reference to Mieu from Tales of the Abyss, since that's what Luke calls Mieu. In a skit, Luke also says to Mieu, "You're blue, you breathe fire, you have big ears and you sound like a girl. You're a thing." One of Lea's lines is a play on that. (Not that she's consciously referencing Abyss, but I am.)

And there are smaller things I could mention, but I'll leave it at that for now. I know the chapter title for this chapter was terrible, but I'm also awful at naming things. In addition, next chapter is when all of the heavy/dark stuff starts, pretty much right off the bat, I think. I WILL put trigger warnings at the top of it, though, so you'll at least know what to watch out for. Just a heads up, though, that there probably won't be any warm fuzzies in chapter six.

Anyway, that's all I got for now. I'll put this up on FF.N in a little bit.

Let me know what you thought!

Pokemon (c) Game Freak, Nintendo
All other references (c) their respective owners
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:iconhoadao:
HoaDao Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
sob sob i could never have a victini, the thing is so cute D: D: D: D: D:

Oooh, Cheren, what are you getting yourself into. D: It's one favor, true, but asoljdgbkajdbj oh dear T3T;;

Ahhh Blair and Bianca are so cute here <3 I love how they're starting to hit it off :D

And lmao, Lea is just dragging N into these things...

and then ch 6. :|
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:iconscrawlers:
Scrawlers Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2012  Student Writer
If you had a Victini, it would probably just set your house on fire, and then give a derpy victory sign. It wouldn't even realize what it did was wrong. It's a cute little nightmare.

<3 It makes me happy that you ship Blair/Bianca. I need to sail this ship across the universe!

Also, your comment on chapter six is perfect. xD That's pretty much how it's going to go.

Thanks for reading!
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:iconhoadao:
HoaDao Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I will ship depending on author's interpretations 8D Pokemon is fun that way 'cause not everyone interprets characters the same way -- especially not the main characters. xD;;
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:iconscrawlers:
Scrawlers Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2012  Student Writer
Yep, I agree! Pokemon is definitely a sandbox fandom; you can do just about anything with it.
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:iconannasasha:
AnnaSasha Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Oh man, this is amazing. I really like it how you think things trough. Kudos for that! (:
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:iconscrawlers:
Scrawlers Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2012  Student Writer
Thank you very much!
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:iconannasasha:
AnnaSasha Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You're welcome. (:
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:icondaughter-of-shadow:
Daughter-of-Shadow Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
First off, I'm loving Castelia City so far. Cheren's deal with the devil was really intriguing, and all the Lea and N stuff was just perfect. I have always loved how you described Thing and I seriously can't imagine my Victini acting any other way. Two thumbs up for all the references. I love how you slip in things like "Captain Unova". Seriously, this whole chapter was just awesome.

Did Lea seriously trade her Pokedex for a DS Lite?
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:iconscrawlers:
Scrawlers Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2012  Student Writer
Thank you very much! I'm glad that it was entertaining. I honestly worried a bit that people would find all the fighting between Lea and N to be off-putting, but I find it more realistic that way. What reason would they have to like each other right off the bat? And I'm glad Thing is likable too, haha. He's a derp, but a cute one, so that's always a plus.

So, thank you again! =D

And yes, yes she did. This is Lea, and Lea doesn't lie, not even to joke about things like that.
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:iconcoffeeincluded:
CoffeeIncluded Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2012
I was going to ask you if you were basing Thing off of Mieu.
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