026. Not Really All That Intimidating
When Lyra heard that the Gym Leader of Cianwood City was a master of fighting Pokèmon, she'd been expecting someone . . . intimidating. A mysterious master of martial arts who could snap her neck with a simple look, maybe, or at least someone toned and well-built. Not . . . Not the slightly overweight man who spent his time sitting beneath a makeshift waterfall. The water pressure doesn't even look that impressive, she thought. And the lever to turn it off probably wouldn't be so rusty if he ever did.
But Lyra voiced none of these thoughts when she finally faced him and his ire at her interruption of his "training," save to say that such training had nothing to do with Pokèmon. It wasn't that Lyra was afraid of Chuck -- Chuck was a Gym Leader, and Gym Leaders fought in Pokèmon battles, not physical ones -- but more that it was getting to be late, and she had to meet Will at the coast at eight o' clock.
All the same, when Sam took out all of Chuck's fighting Pokèmon in twenty minutes flat, she did leave him with one final thought: "Your waterfall training doesn't really seem to be helping you anyway, so maybe your time would be better spent running laps with your Pokèmon instead."
Jasmine was a shy, sweet, timid person, even for a Gym Leader. Whereas most Gym Leaders were assertive and tended to at least try to come off as intimidating, Jasmine didn't quite cut it -- not even when she raised her voice to proclaim how strong and tough the steel-type was (though perhaps it would have had more effect if she didn't add a meek comment afterward). Still, while her two Magnemite weren't anything impressive, her last Pokèmon ended up being a Steelix that almost reached to the roof of her Gym, and towered over Byrnison, who shrank back.
"Stay strong, Byrnison," Lyra said, though she felt rather intimidated herself. The Steelix merely stared down, and while it completely dwarfed Jasmine, Jasmine seemed to hold herself up a little higher once her Steelix was released, more confidence showing in her posture than before.
Guess she has to make up for her lack of confidence in herself somehow, Lyra thought, her eyes moving back up to the menacing Steelix. But somehow, I just have this feeling that this is going to be really painful . . .
028. Completely Inconspicuous and Non-Suspicious. Totally, Guys, We're Serious Here. Super Cereal. Yeah.
Lyra stared at the sign outside of the small Mahogany Town shop, unable to really believe what she was reading. The way it spoke of being a "completely normal souvenir shop, yep, definitely" screamed nothing but suspicion. "Does anyone really believe this?" Lyra asked, glancing down at Pantalaimon. Her Furret couldn't really answer, but he didn't really need to; as she spoke the words, two people walked behind her, and Lyra heard part of their conversation as they passed.
"I'm so glad we have a store now. It may not be an official PokèMart, but it looks official enough for me!"
"I agree. It makes up for all that fishy business up at the Lake of Rage."
"Hahaha, "fishy" business! That's a good one!"
"Why, thank you! I even crack myself up sometimes!"
". . . Pan, why do I sometimes feel like we're the only people with half a brain about us sometimes?" Lyra glanced down, and noticed that Pantalaimon looked just as disgusted with the human race as she felt.
029. Get up on the Hydra's Back
A Gyarados was one thing. A red Gyarados was another. And battling a ferocious red Gyarados in the middle of its natural habitat was another thing entirely.
But the Gyarados was rampaging out in the middle of the Lake of Rage (appropriate name, Lyra thought, but it didn't make her feel any better), and more than that, Lyra wanted it. She knew it was somewhat selfish of her, but she reasoned that she did need a water type, and hey, it wasn't as if any other trainer in her position would even hesitate to try and capture the oddly-colored Pokèmon. Besides, capturing it was more humane than simply knocking it out, wasn't it? Especially since knocking it out would never solve the problem.
No, rationalizing her decision was not the hard part for Lyra. Working up the courage to go out into the lake was.
Byrnison, of course, was having none of it. It was raining, number one, and number two, Lyra would have to ask him to go out into a lake. He was a fire-type, and such a thing would kill him, and Lyra was not about to do that to him. So, he was out. Pantalaimon also flat out refused, perching himself on the shore and refusing to go any further, shaking his head when she tried to coax him. Sam looked like he might be willing to try, but Dean pounced on him and held him to the shore, refusing to let him go. So in the end, Lyra was the only one willing to go out into the lake, and even she wasn't really that willing. It was a Gyarados, after all. A red Gyarados. A pissed off red Gyarados. Staring out at the angry beast for a few minutes, Lyra pulled out her Pokègear, and hit number two on her speed-dial -- Ethan.
"Ethan? It's Lyra." Before Ethan had a chance to say anything else, Lyra continued. "I want you to take care of my Pokèmon when I die."
"What? Where's this coming from? Are you okay?"
"No," Lyra answered. "I'm about to die, and I know that you're the only trainer I can really trust to care for them when I'm gone. I'm at the Lake of Rage north of Mahogany Town. You're going to have to come pick them up. I'd say you'd make my funeral arrangements too, but my body is going to be at the bottom of the lake."
"What? What are you talking about? Lyra, what's going on?" To his credit, Ethan sounded generally panicked, but Lyra merely swallowed, steeling her courage.
"If I end up not dying, I'll call you. Bye, Ethan."
Lyra snapped her phone shut, and then set her Pokègear down on the ground by Dean and Sam. "Well, guys," she said grimly. "Wish me luck."
Pantalaimon tried to protest -- he bit down on her ankle to hold her back -- but Lyra shook him off and waded into the water anyway. It was insane. She was insane, and the Gyarados was probably going to kill her, but she had to try. But just as the great beast turned toward her, Lyra realized she wasn't going to have to try alone, because Pantalaimon -- against all of his better judgments -- was swimming out with her, looking absolutely terrified, but loyal to the last.
"Thanks, Pan," Lyra said, and Pantalaimon bobbed his head, though he looked none too happy.
In the end, the red Gyarados went for Pantalaimon instead of Lyra, especially as Pantalaimon jumped out of the water and used Fury Swipes on the Gyarados' snout. Lyra swam around to the back while Pantalaimon had the Gyarados distracted, and -- against all reason -- threw herself onto the back of the great red sea serpent. The Gyarados roared out in rage, but Lyra held on tight, Pantalaimon scampering up with her once he saw that she was on safely.
"Red Gyarados," she proclaimed, pulling out on an Ultra Ball, "you're mine!" Pressing the button, Lyra captured the Gyarados in the sphere . . . And realized a second too late that she'd just captured the one creature holding her aloft in the air. With a short scream, both she and Pantalaimon plunged into the cold waters of the lake, looking like the craziest fools to ever grace the Lake of Rage.
030. Lance, the Dragon Master
Sometimes Lyra wished that she was one of those celebrities that had perfect hair stylists and wardrobe consultants for every moment of every day. Perhaps if she did, then Lance's first impression of her wouldn't have been of a sopping wet, tired, possibly insane girl who bore a closer resemblance to the Swamp Thing than she did a Pokèmon Trainer. As it stood, when she and Pantalaimon pulled themselves out of the Lake of Rage -- the red Gyarados' Pokèball grasped tightly in her hand (she decided to henceforth call it Hydra) -- she found herself staring up at him while he looked down at her, his expression unreadable. Lyra felt her face go as red as her hair at the look, considering several factors:
One, he looked intimidating even without the Dragonite standing behind him.
Two, intimidating though he may have appeared, with his striking red hair and dark eyes (both of which were strikingly familiar, somehow) he was also rather attractive.
And three . . . well, actually, there wasn't a three. Lyra couldn't quite get her brain to process a three.
"H - H - Hi," she said, very articulately.
"I saw the way you battled," he said, and Lyra didn't really care that what he said wasn't a real introduction. It would work. "My name is Lance. I'm a Pokèmon Trainer just like yourself." Ah, so there was the introduction. "There's something strange going on here, and I have strong suspicions that it has ties to Team Rocket. Would you help me investigate?"
I'll help you do whatever you want! Lyra wanted to say, but she found that her mouth wouldn't quite work properly, so instead she just nodded rather numbly. Lance chuckled, his lips curling into a fierce little smile.
"Excellent. Now, I have to ask . . . do you have a name?"
"L - Lyra," Lyra stammered. "Lyra Hart."
"Hm. I like it." Lyra felt her heart begin a showdance routine in her chest, though Lance turned away, cape flaring behind him. "I'll meet you back in Mahogany." Without another word, Lance hopped on top of his Dragonite, and took to the sky. Lyra stared after, yet then slowly turned to look at Pantalaimon.
"That," she said, "was the coolest person that I have ever seen." Pantalaimon nodded his fervent agreement.
031. Hate at First Sight
Originally, Will was just going to bypass Lance altogether. He knew Rockets when he saw them, and the Dragon Tamer was obviously not a Rocket. He was traveling alone, number one. Number two, he wasn't wearing one of the uniforms. And while Will wanted to do his own thing and would have preferred other people stay out of his way (what, were Team Rocket bases hot spots for field trips?), he wasn't going to make a big deal out of it. (And it had nothing to do with the giant Dragonite behind the man, either. Nope. No way. Will wasn't afraid. Never.)
But Lance was the one who stopped him. Will found his path blocked by the man, and found a glare directed down at him. Will, naturally, glared back with his chin raised, eyes narrowed defiantly.
"Get out of my way."
"Scared?" Lance asked, and Will scoffed derisively. "Is the poor little Rocket scared of the big, bad Dragonite?"
Will felt hatred flash through him white hot, and his hand was grabbing one of his Pokèballs before he could help it. "Don't you ever," he growled in a low tone, "compare me to one of them. Ever!"
"So you're not a Rocket?" Lance sounded incredulous. "Hm, you look just like one, minus the get-up. Mean eyes, cold demeanor, and, if I'm not mistaken, a personal history of being the k--"
"Yes, because everyone who isn't lovey-dovey, butterflies and rainbows, a giant ray of freakin' sunshine is automatically a member of Team Rocket," Will spat. "I'd also like to know what classifies my eyes as "mean" and how that's a solid judgment of anything."
Lance merely stared down at him, yet then shook his head. "You have no business here, kid, but I wouldn't mind teaching you a lesson. Someone like you, well . . . you could never really care for your Pokèmon."
"So now you're going to call my talent as a trainer into question? Fine. I have no problem with thrashing a weak-hearted fool like yourself." After all, if this man was going to criticize Will's ability, then Will felt perfectly justified in doing so back. He felt nothing but the utmost scorn for the man before him, and the unrestrained loathing in Lance's eyes told Will that the Dragon Tamer felt the exact same way.
But it was no use. Lance's single Dragonite wiped out each one of Will's Pokèmon, and knocked him back against the wall with a single flap of its enormous wings. Lance stared coldly down at Will, who -- despite his trouncing -- still glared right back up at him.
"You don't love your Pokèmon," Lance said. "You don't trust them, and I highly doubt that you would ever be capable of doing so. But if you ever are, then come back and see me. Prove to me that the apple falls farther than the tree." Will felt the color drain from his face as Lance turned. "As if it's even possible."
There was something really familiar about Ariana that Lyra couldn't quite put her finger on.
There was something about the way she tilted her chin up when she looked at Lance, and the way she stayed strong even after her loss, remarking about how it meant nothing. There was something about the flip of her red-red hair, about the way she set her shoulders. There was something about her arrogant tone.
The more Lyra thought about it, the more familiar Ariana seemed, but Lyra knew for a fact that she had never met Ariana in her life before that day.
Still, there wasn't too much time to think about it. She and Lance moved on, fainting the Electrode, clearing out the base to stop the annoying radio signal that Team Rocket had felt fit to broadcast. Even so, later on, Lyra felt her mind drifting toward it again -- thinking, wondering.
Ariana resembled someone Lyra knew, Lyra realized, but she just couldn't figure out who.
033. Gold and Silver
It's been months since their journeys started, and even so, Ethan Soulbitz meets Will Argento completely by accident.
Ethan's in a hurry, as usual, but this time it's because Lyra forgot to call him back and he's worried she's dead, so he's sprinting into Mahogany Town as fast as he can. Mari races along ahead of him, occasionally looping back, all of her boundless energy showing in her quick steps and bouncing tail. Ethan's not really paying attention to where he's going, so when a boy with red hair crashes into him, it takes him completely by surprise and knocks him back, his hat falling off his head. The red-haired boy was knocked down as well, swearing a blue streak that would make Ethan's father wash his mouth out with soap, and Mari makes a disapproving sound at the language.
"Sorry," Ethan says hastily, picking himself up off the ground before offering a hand to the other boy. The other boy looks at the hand for a minute, staring at it like he's never seen a human hand before, before he knocks it away. Ethan frowns, and Mari looks ready to shoot a Water Gun at the boy's face. "I was just in a hurry. Have you seen a girl with brown pigtails and a big white hat anywhere? She'd probably have a Furret or Quilava with her."
"Lyra?" The red-haired boy asks, and Ethan's eyes widen.
"You know her? I mean, yeah, Lyra. Have you seen her?"
"Just did," the boy says, and jerks a thumb in the direction of Mahogany Town. "She's playing with Team Rocket aside a cape-wearing, dragon-obsessed, bleeding heart, hypocrite freak." The words -- all of them -- are as prickly as barbs on a wire fence, and Ethan can't mask the surprise that crosses his face.
"Is -- Is she okay?" he asks, setting aside all of the other questions. "I mean, if Team Rocket's in there--"
"Tch. She's fine. Stupid as ever, but fine." The red-haired boy glares at something over Ethan's shoulder. "Not that I care. She can go off herself for all I care. Maybe the Dragon Tamer can attend her funeral."
"Don't talk about her like that," Ethan says, voice losing all of its friendliness. Ethan considers himself to be a pretty easy guy to get along with, but there are certain lines that can't be crossed, and wishing his friends dead is one of them. "What's your problem, anyway? Aren't you Lyra's friend?"
"Whatever gave you that idea?" The red-haired boy looks at Ethan sharply, eyes defensive and accusing all at the same time. "I have no use for that weakling except to smash her and her worthless Pokèmon flat into the ground where they belong."
Something clicks in Ethan's brain, then -- forgotten memories of phone conversations he'd had with Lyra before. "You're Will," he says, his voice wondering. "You have to be -- you fit Lyra's description perfectly."
"She talks about me?" Will sounds surprised and suspicious all at once. "What does she say? Who the hell are you?"
"I'm Ethan, Lyra's best friend." Ethan stands his ground, and Mari races over to stand beside him, standing proud as well. "And yeah, she does. You kind of make it impossible for her not to, since you're always wherever she goes."
"I am not," Will retorts. "She's wherever I go. And anyway, I don't have time for this. I have places to be. Move." Before he can, however, Will shoves Ethan aside, and throws Mari a dirty look when she moves to bite his ankle.
"Let it go, Mari," Ethan sighs, reaching down to pat his Pokèmon on her head. "We should go find Lyra, anyway." Despite Will's rough exterior, and despite the fact that everything tells Ethan that he should write the other boy off as a psycho not worth his time, Ethan gets the distinct feeling that Will isn't as bad as he seems, and that Ethan probably just caught him on a bad day.
034. Worse Than a Telemarketer
"Oh, for the love of . . ." Lyra pulled out her Pokègear, sighing as she saw her mother's number flashing on the caller ID. Clicking the send button, she put the phone to her ear, sighing, "Yes, Mother?"
"Hi, Lyra! I was out shopping and I found something useful, so I--"
"Bought it with my money. But that's fine, because you had the deliveryman take it to the nearest mart, even though you had no idea where I would be at the time, so it's sort of strange how the deliveryman always knows just where to turn up," Lyra finished, tone deadpan. "Let me guess," she asked in the silence that followed. "You bought more berries, right?"
"I was trying to do something nice," her mother responded, tone rather cool. Lyra felt a bit of shame slip down her back, but willed it to go away. This was the fourth time in a half hour that her mother had called her, and Lyra was getting rather tired of the constant pestering. "Next time I'll remember not to bother."
"No, Mom, it's not that," Lyra said, resisting the urge to groan. "It's just that you call a lot, for berries. Couldn't you maybe call a little less?"
"Do you want me to still save your money?" It seemed like a random topic change, and Lyra actually pulled the phone away from her ear for a minute to look at it before replacing it.
"Then I will continue to help you, and will continue to let you know, because how else would you know to pick up the items I had delivered to you?" Lyra put her head in one hand, feeling a headache coming on. "By the way," her mother added, tone a bit more acidic, "I think those berries are really useful." The line went dead, and Lyra hung up her Pokègear, letting out a frustrated groan.
Having her mom save her money was really useful, and Lyra considered herself lucky that she had a mother willing to do that. All the same, she also wished that she could somehow change her number without her mother knowing, because the constant phone calls were beginning to get very annoying.
035. Coffee Time at Morty's
"So, let me get this straight," Morty said, bringing two cups of hot coffee over to the table. He set one down in front of Eusine before taking his own seat, too used to the way Eusine poured sugar and cream into his coffee to be bothered by it anymore (Morty took his black, but even if he didn't, he didn't see a reason for half a bowl of sugar -- but then, there wasn't much reason for why Eusine did the things he did, and Morty had accepted that long ago). "You flat out told Lyra that you were stalking her?"
"Of course I didn't say that I was stalking her," Eusine said, rolling his eyes. "I merely told her that I realized that Suicune would turn up wherever she did, and that I would find Suicune. I figured that she would put the rest together by herself."
". . . Did she?" Morty was almost afraid to hear the answer. For all he knew, the next words out of his mouth were going to be that Eusine had a restraining order against him that he was just planning to break the next day.
"I think she did, but it didn't seem to really bother her. She simply said 'Oh' and let me continue talking." Eusine grinned triumphantly, and Morty sighed. "I told her about how my grandfather told me all about Suicune, and how I had devoted my life to finally meeting Suicune. I figured that would accomplish both of my tasks."
"One, it will make you stop accusing me of "stalking" Lyra. It isn't exactly stalking if she knows I'm there." Morty disagreed, but took a sip of his coffee rather than interrupting. "Two, it will convince Lyra to back off. Suicune is mine, and I refuse to let her interfere with that. She can be the bait, but nothing more."
"You're not going to use her as bait." Morty looked seriously over at Eusine over the top of his coffee mug, but found that Eusine found the ceiling to be much more interesting. "Eusine . . ."
"It's not as if I'm going to be throwing her into harm's way or anything," Eusine reasoned. "It's just -- listen, Morty, you of all people should understand. This girl . . . for whatever inconceivable reason, Suicune has singled out this girl. Or, at the very least, Lyra has the tendency to somehow stumble upon Suicune. That means that so long as I keep an eye on Lyra, I can keep an eye on Suicune -- I can get close. I need to get close, and it isn't just for my benefit. You want to understand the mysteries of the Ecruteak legends just as badly as I do."
"Of course I do. Researching the legends isn't just my job as Gym Leader -- it's the reason I became Gym Leader. But all the same . . ."
"There's nothing more to be said for it. Besides, Lyra can take care of herself. She did best both of us, after all, which is rather embarrassing even if it is true." Eusine dropped another spoonful of sugar into his coffee, and Morty wrinkled his nose.
"Don't you think that's enough sugar, Eusine?"
"Trying to change the subject to avoid reminiscing about your loss?" Eusine countered, and Morty rolled his eyes.
"No, I'm just beginning to think you're going to end up a diabetic."
"I burn off all the sugar by chasing Suicune."
"It doesn't work that way, Eusine."
"Inevitably, it will, just as I will inevitably meet Suicune."
"No, it won't -- you can't change your biology simply because you have the inability to drink good coffee as it is. But whatever," Morty said, holding up one hand to stop Eusine's rebuttal. "Do what you want. Just know that when the day comes when you're unable to eat anything but the vegetables you refuse on a regular basis, I will be there to laugh in your face and eat a giant ice-cream sundae. With sprinkles."
"And people say I'm the immature one," Eusine said. Morty chuckled, taking another sip of his coffee.
"That's just because next to you, anyone would look sane, reasonable, and mature."