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★ Justified ★

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Justified

A determined Growlithe looks to evolve himself.
Year, a Growlithe, has always dreamt of evolving into an Arcanine. Loyal, brave and fierce, he goes on a quest for his beloved Fire Stone, which is only given to the best of powerful Growlithes after a quest of training and independent work. Will Year get through this 'hell' of a trial, or will he fail miserably, growing to old age only as a Growlithe?
Please note that this whole story has been slapped together in a messy attempt to clean up and finish it. None of it has really been planned in advance, and I'm just writing as the story goes on. Frankly, I have no idea in what direction this whole 'project' is going; this is primarily a practise area for general writing and whatnot.
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Feel free to post and reply to this thread!
cis-female ¦ she/her

Contents

1. Title 2. Contents 3. Cast 4. Chapter I 5. Chapter II 6. Chapter III 7. Chapter IV 8. Chapter V 9. Chapter VI 10. Chapter VII 11. Chapter VIII 12. Chapter IX 13. Chapter X 14. Chapter XI 15. Chapter XII 16. Chapter XIII 17. Chapter XIV 18. Chapter XV Play along!* 19. Chapter XVI 20. Chapter XVII 21. Chapter XVIII 22. Chapter XIX 23. Chapter XX 24. Chapter XXI 25. Chapter XXII 26. Chapter XXIII 27. Chapter XXIV 28. Chapter XXV 29. Chapter XXVI 30. Chapter XXVII 31. Chapter XXVIII 32. Chapter XXIX 33. Chapter XXX 34. Chapter XXXI 35. Chapter XXXII 36. Chapter XXXIII 37. Chapter XXXIV 38. Chapter XXXV 39. Chapter XXXVI 40. Chapter XXXVII 41. Chapter XXXVIII 42. Chapter XXXIX 43. Chapter XL 44. Chapter XLI 45. Chapter XLII 46. Chapter XLIII 47. Chapter XLIV 48. Epilogue 49. Completion 50. Note
*Play along! chapters allow you to play along with the storyline, usually a quiz or making a specific character's decision.

Cast

Home

Family
Year ♂ ♂ Brige
Father
♂ ♀ Brana
Mother
♀ ♀ Flemai
Paternal Grandmother

School

Pups
Year ♂ ♀ Xin ♀ ♂ Luca ♂ ♂ Kipper
Minis
Roman ♂ ♂ Ave ♂ ♀ Mimi ♀ ⚲ Zak

Quest to Justification

Contestants
Year ♂ ♂ Picket ♂ ♀ Angle ♀ ♂ Onp ♂ ♂ Qron ♂ ♂ Pom ♂ ♀ Dai ♀ ♀ Upora ♀ ♀ Lua ♀ ♂ Neon ♂ ♂ Fujin ♂ ♂ Sev ♂ ♂ Peroino ♂ ♀ Junan ♀ ♂ Gan ♂ ♂ Faai ♂ ♂ Hone ♂ ♂ Enez ♂ ♂ Kaial ♂ ♂ Buya ♂ ♀ Zoon ♀ ♀ Uija ♀ ♂ Yuta ♂ ♂ Lanzauap ♂ ♂ Anpt
Judges
Talen ♂ ♀ Jo ♀ ♂ Sebb ♂ ♀ Ponniy

I

I fidgeted silently under my desk as my history teacher went on about how Arceus shaped the universe with its one thousand arms or.. whatever. I don't know; I wasn't really listening. Why should I be learning about some Alpha Pokemon when I could be doing something more beneficial? Like, I don't know, doing that Arcanine Trial so I can receive a Fire Stone to legally evolve myself? Well, that's only beneficial to myself. But it matters more to me than something that is only a myth - it could be all made-up, for all we know. I'm in second year of my school. When I started last year, I didn't make friends fast. It took a whole half-year, in fact. Most of my friends are those who moved halfway throughout the year - they were usually ignored, but I saw my chance to have some sort of companion. Looks like we had much more in common than I originally thought when saying "Hi, I'm in your class, maybe I could hang out with you?" My closest friend is called Xin; she's a Vulpix. Of course, she has to get a Fire Stone to evolve into a Ninetales, but she tells me that she plans on doing that when she's older and stronger. Well, that's one thing we don't have in common; she's patient, I'm the exact opposite. I regularly tell her about my plans to do the Arcanine Trial, or the 'Quest to Justification', as it's officially called. Everytime I bring it up, she tells me the same thing: "You have to focus on education. Sorry, Year, but we're all a bit too young to compete." But nope. No way am I listening. It's my choice, isn't it? The Vulpix equivalent of the Arcanine Trial is the 'Quest to Droughts'. Again, Xin isn't too fond of it. "Why should we have to do a quest to legally obtain the Fire Stone? I mean, Pokemon that can evolve by levelling up don't have to do these silly quests.. I just don't get it." And I agree with her. Xin is very smart. Academically and logically. She usually gets top marks in everything. There's no point in congratulating her anymore because you just automatically know that she will get the highest score in the year. My other friends are still.. friends, but, of course, not as close as Xin. Luca is a Lillipup, who dreams of evolving into a strong Stoutland. And then there's Kipper, who is a Rockruff. He enjoys being young a little too much, so he doesn't like to talk about evolution often. Even if he had to evolve, he would prefer becoming a Lycanroc in Midday Form. Out of all my friends in our little 'gang', Kipper would have to be my least favourite. He's a Rock-type, naturally, being a Rockruff, and is super effective against Fire-types. Whenever I begin talking about the Arcanine Trial, he clears his throat in the most obnoxious, pretentious way, it bothers Xin and me, since he is very clearly stating that he could very easily knock us both out in a turn or two if we ever fought competitively. He even said it to us directly once: "You do know that I am a Rock-type, right..?" Nevertheless, we have our good and friendly times, which do tend to make up the majority of our time spent together. The history teacher finished off the lesson with announcing some homework and dismissed us for our twenty minute break. Students flooded the concourse (in a non-dramatic way) as Xin, Luca, Kipper and I sat on the seats. The chairs made out of steel reminded me of whether or not I remembered my key - I have a bad habit of forgetting to pack them in my school bag the night before. I rummaged around in my bag, no keys seeming to be present. I cursed myself as I closed up my bag again. We began talking about something to do with the lesson homework before the Coils sat on the chairs opposite us. Well, that's what we call them. The 'Coils'. I guess they're kind of our enemies, in a sort of tentative way. We don't lethally hate each other, but we tend to make attempts to avoid each other. Others have noticed this. If I were to guess what they call us as a collective group.. I would say the 'Buddings'. Random guess, just a random guess. Yep. Okay. The Coils sat opposite us in an attempt to make us feel intimidated by their sea-salty-like scent, which clogged my sense of smell. I glared in annoyance, my popular ability to sniff out emotions and unknown scents fading away in a matter of seconds. "Hi, Year," their 'leader', Roman, a fairly young Poliwag, said with a small sneer. "Uh, hi?" I replied. Mimi, a Gothita, smirked. Xin glared at her. "I see that you've been bragging to everyone about how you're about to compete in the Quest to Justification, right?" Roman answered. "You didn't, did you, Year?" Xin said, instantly in shock. "Of course not! He's lying!" I said pathetically, but with a hesitating stutter. "Yes, I have heard about you discussing with the first years about how you're going to beat all of the trials with immense ease," Roman continued. "I'm sorry, but why should we believe anything you say?" Luca said, speaking up. Ave stepped up from behind Roman. He's a Tympole. "Well, perhaps the whole bragging part is untrue. Of course, Year being Year, he would want to keep this whole thing under wraps." My friends kept their eyes completely focussed on Ave. "But this whole situation where Year has signed up for this year's Arcanine Trial is one hundred percent true," Ave said. "In fact, he is thought to be the youngest Growlithe there competing. The second youngest is five years older," Zak, a Magnemite, continued. "Is this really true?" Kipper enquired in intense shock. I looked down in shame. "Well, everyone - it would happen to be true."

II

My father is an Arcanine and my mother was a very powerful Delphox. Since female Delphoxes tend to be very rare nowadays, she was the only female Fennekin in a family of ten younger and older brothers - whereas I have no siblings at all. I prefer it that way. "You're lucky to not have any siblings," my mother had said when I was younger. "Imagine sharing everything, getting into arguments and so on. Not something you should favour!" She died a few months after saying that. I'm not going to go into details, but let's just say that there were a few mishaps that I don't really want to discuss. Besides, I couldn't even imagine my father's reaction when I, eventually, would tell him about me signing up to the Arcanine Trial. Yes, he did compete in it previously, but it took him a couple tries (three, to be exact) to actually complete and successfully win the Fire Stone. He did the first one when he was twenty. I am thirteen. As I walked to home from school with Xin, she went on about how much she had warned me about the trial. The usual stuff about how I'm wasting away my 'precious' education to probably fail at some quest I'll be the center of humilation at. Sure, sure. I'll prove them all wrong. Well, I always will. There's always a drive in me to prove others wrong, even if the said 'others' don't notice me in a bad light. I still haven't told Father about me signing up. I signed up in secret, wanting to tell my friends and family the night before the day it started, so I would receive less of the shouting matches. But now everyone at my school knows, they would probably pass it on to my father in some sort of way - and I know he'll be upset if I didn't tell him first, or if someone else told him first. He's that kind of person. Actually, Xin proposed that idea, giving those same exact reasons. I suppose I saw her logic at the end of it all. I have decided to tell him tonight, at dinner. More formal, right? I don't know. Well, whatever. Whatever is said is said. That sounds ominous. Okay, 'what's said is said'. That sounds worse. Uh, okay. Whatever is said is said. That's the terrifying part. What will be my reason for why I did it? I should be prepared to answer all questions.. besides, I'm already planning out this entire conversation in my head. "Welcome back, son." "Hi, dad." *Skip to dinner time.* "Dad, I have something to tell you." "Yes, son, what is it?" *Munch, munch.* "I signed up for the Quest of Justification." And then what would his reaction be? '"What?"' '"Are you serious?"' '"I can't believe this."' Okay, but, my father being my father, he would probably say.. "Are you serious?" "Yes." "But why?" "I've wanted to be an Arcanine all my life, dad. I just can't wait any longer." "That's so stupid of you. I.. I forbid you to go!" "I can't can't go, it's set in stone. If I don't go, I will be seen as a coward." "I don't care, this is your education!" Heh, he sounds so much like Xin. Then, what would I say in response? "I just want to prove myself to everyone." "Yeah, do that in at least seven years time! Year, you're not going." My mind-mapping process was interrupted by finally reaching the door. As I had remembered I had forgotton my keys, I rapped on the door louder than I usually did and probably rang the doorbell at least ten times, anxious of the future conversation we were about to have. I heard keys fidgeting on the other side of the door, only to be welcomed by Father. He looked very cross. "Year, who the hell do you think you are?" He half said-shouted, although he looked like he wanted to scream right in my face. "Oh yeah, about that," I said hastily, figuring out that someone else in my school had already told him about me signing up to the Arcanine Trial. My heart began to palpitate faster than before. "I can't believe you have the nerve to bang on the door so loudly, like some sort of wild Aipom. The neighbours have probably heard you throughout these paper-thin walls!" My eyes widened, alarms in my head beginning to calm down. "Sorry, father," I murmured, ashamed, but also over the moon. Thank God that someone else hadn't told him about the Arcanine Trial. I rushed up to my room instantly after a few more minutes of reprimanding, wanting to avoid my father. I spotted my keys lying on my desk. I fidgetted with them. They were shaped and painted just like a real Klefki. I smiled at them like they were real living beings and quickly dropped them in my school bag, not wanting to forget them for the next day too. Father already seemed very cross at me for forgetting my keys, so I didn't want to fuel his anger even more. Perhaps I should tell him tomorrow morning.. I was postponing when I would tell him about the quest for the vain reason of not wanting to face his anger, but I guessed most people would do that. I was just terrified of what he would say. After a dinner that seemed to last hours, the supper literally begging for me to say something about the trial, it ended with a half hour of watching the Pokemon World Tournaments and commenting on the different contestants. The day ended with words of optimistim and positivity and I tucked myself into bed, petrified. Haha, what an oxymoron. Yes, I was planning on telling my father tomorrow morning. Unfortunately, I had woken up late the next day.

III

Unfortunately, my school is for those who are in wealthy families. Or, generally, school for Pokemon is for those with wealthy families. My household is not as well-off, but my paternal grandmother found a way around it by funding my school studies there for the first three years. After those three initial years, my father and I would have to pay for it ourselves. We don't know how we're going to do it, but I guess we'll have to find a way, because, if we don't pay, I'll, essentially, be booted out. Most Pokemon nowadays are typically homeschooled anyways, so I guess it wouldn't be too bad. It would just be a shame drifting away from Xin, Luca, Kipper and all my other classmates, who seem to be not as bad as I initially thought when first meeting them. No one really lives around where I live, hence why Xin only walks with me around halfway through the journey of walking back home. She lives in the main street with all the other Pokemon that go to my school, while I reside in some house tucked into the corner of a ditch big enough to hold a home. Apparently, it was built at least one hundred years ago, but that's just what, reportedly, the last owners of the house said when they moved out. Because my house is in such in an obscure place, away from the high roads, it takes some time to travel to school, which I do by walking. So, of course, I was extremely late, as I had slept through my alarm. I'm late rarely, which is the consquence of my father getting up early and travelling to work. But now he's ill. How am I supposed to tell him at dinner when he's ill? He'll probably not even be well enough to cook dinner! I reached school ten minutes late. I sighed, dreading the reprimanding I would receive from my geography teacher. I dragged my legs up the stairs and clambered into the class awkwardly, mumbling a small "sorry I'm late". My geography teacher gave me a strict glare as he pointed at my seat. "Go to your seat. Why are you late?" Although I haven't been late to school in a long time, I tend to learn Kipper's old late-to-school excuses, just in case I am. Some of the most notable are "The bus driver wouldn't stop at my stop", "My pet Joltik was really hungry and I was forced to feed him", "I was sleepwalking and my parents couldn't wake me up" and so forth. Even though I don't take the bus, only Xin, Luca and Kipper know this. "The bus driver wouldn't stop at my stop, even though I ringed the bell," I nervously replied. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Kipper smirk. I hastily turned my eyes to them and Xin glared at me. Luca looked more or less neutral. "So, the next bus stop was about a mile away?" "Well, yeah," I said. "The bus I took... it does have a lot of distance between each stop... the..." I paused, thinking of a bus number. "Yeah, I know right! The 256 has a lot of distance between each stop, sir," Xin said quickly. "Yep, the 256," I breathed, vaguely recognising the number. "Yeah, okay, that's plausible, I've been on a bus before myself," the teacher said, making the class snigger a little. "But you're still going to get a detention, Year. I don't care why or how you were late; you still get a detention." I opened my mouth to ask why he even bothered to ask me why I was late, if that was the case, but I decided it was best to keep my mouth shut. "You're barely late, Year. In fact, I don't even recall you being late to any of my classes, ever. But, oh well. This is a first. Experience is the best teacher, huh? Well, apart from me. I'm a pretty good teacher, even if I do say so myself." I walked to my seat next to Zak, hating the seating plan. It seemed that every class the seating plan would find some way to sit myself next to one of the Clogs, or the Minis, as they call themselves. My friends and I did decide on calling ourselves the 'Pups', but we try to avoid using that term, as I do like saying 'my friends and I/me' better than our stereotypical nickname. After one period of geography, we walked to our maths session before break. Xin threw herself at me in revenge, stepping on my paw so I would trip. People around us sniggered. I remembered them being told that I was going to the Arcanine Trial yesterday and, in a drive to prove myself, I rolled forward to trip Xin's back foot. To my relief, she also fell. "Hey dude, stop being so defensive. I'm only playing around with you," Xin grinned, lifting herself up from the floor. "Looks like you really want to make people know that you can truly complete the quest." "Uh-huh," I replied, feeling rather guilty. "Sorry about that, but you're correct. I feel kinda insecure about everything right now." "It's okay," Xin replied. "It happens. Inevitably." We walked for a few more seconds throughout silence as we went down the corridor. Her face turned sour, seeming to suddenly remember something. "It's not easy to lie to the teacher like that, Year," Xin sighed. "Huh?" "When I said about the 256. Sir is my favourite teacher, you know that. I feel so guilty, like I've backstabbed him in some way." "Well, the thing about the 256 is true.. right?" "Yes, I've been going on it my whole life. But you don't even take the bus. I bet you haven't been on one!" "True," I muttered. Why did Xin have to be right all the time? "Well, see you at break," Xin said, reaching her maths set. Which is the top one, by the way. "See you," I say, going over to my maths set, which is two sets behind her. But I believe I have a chance of moving up, since I have been getting good scores in my exams recently. At break, we discussed the Quest of Justification. Surprisingly, Kipper was okay to talk about it. "When is the Quest of Justification starting, anyway?" Luca asked. "It starts on Monday," I replied. Today was Tuesday. However, the starting point for the trial was far away from home, so I would have to begin my travel there on Saturday. I had already worked everything out in advance. "Do the teachers even know you're going?" "Of course," I said, rolling my eyes. "Pretty much everyone in the school knows at this point." "Have you told your father yet?" Xin butted in disapprovingly. I paused. "I'll do that tomorrow. He's ill today. Although, there is a possibility that he'll be ill tomorrow too.." "Year!" Kipper grinned. "You keep postponing it." "Well, how is he supposed to handle it when he's poorly?" "How do you think your father would handle that news when he's ill?" Xin asked. I thought of my father's most plausible reaction. He would probably be too ill to even feel like shouting at me, so I'll avoid the shouting matches. So.. perhaps.. "Actually, I'll do it today," I sighed. "Hah," Xin smiled. "Besides, the events in the trial change every year. I have no idea what I'm facing. But, up to the event, I'm gonna start training." "What?" Xin said in shock. "You haven't started yet?" "What do you think? I've already got enough homework to keep me awake half the night, and it's literally the start of the year. Plus, I've been training before, and right now I-" "Don't tell me you feel like you don't need to do it," she answered bitterly. "I wasn't going to say that! I'm just saying, I think I'll already test myself physically when I start travelling there." Kipper digged out a loose-leaf piece of paper out of his bag. "Have you seen this?" he asked, giving it to me. It read:
QUEST TO JUSTIFICATION Compete in a series of trials to obtain a Fire Stone! The Quest of Justification (informally known as the 'Arcanine Trial') is the only legal way, in the country, to obtain a Fire Stone in order to evolve yourself, a Growlithe, into an Arcanine! The first twenty-five to sign up are guaranteed a spot there! Contestants 1. Angle, 23, Female 2. Onp, 30, Male 3. Picket, 18, Male 4. Qron, 21, Male 5. Upora, 43, Female 6. Pom, 19, Male 7. Year, 13, Male 8. Dai, 22, Female 9. Lua, 26, Female 10. Neon, 37, Male 11. Fujin, 39, Male 12. Sev, 27, Male 13. Peroino, 31, Male 14. Gan, 21, Male 15. Faai, 35, Female 16. Hone, 24, Male 17. Enez, 18, Male 18. Kaial, 32, Male 19. Buya, 28, Male 20. Zoon, 23, Female 21. Junan, 22, Female 22. Yuta, 42, Male 23. Uija, 46, Female 24. Lanzauap, 32, Male 25. Anpt, 23, Male All of the Growlithes that successfully finish all trials with all objectives met will receive the desired Fire Stone! It is possible for all 25 to get it, or maybe none - only time will tell! There will be a total of ten trials: 1. Attack Trial 2. Defense Trial 3. Speed Trial 4. Strength Trial 5. Self-Healing Trial 6. Team-Healing Trial 7. Status Attack Trial 8. Senses Trial 9. Knowledge Trial 10. Grand Trial The Grand Trial is the final trial. If you complete it, you will be able to gain the Fire Stone and legally evolve yourself! Details about the quest as trials continue wll be released in your local newspapers. More details about the upcoming Quest to Justification will be released soon on official Quest to Justification social media accounts.

IV

The area of where I live is cleverly hidden away from humans, so none are able to see it. Legend has it that some cool Zoroark used all of its power to make others outside of the city only see a large field of grass. It eventually probably died after that, but the illusion stayed there, somehow. I don't really know the story that well, but it's something along those lines. I don't know, you're better off asking Xin if you want the details. I wish I could be a Zoroark right now. Actually, I love being a Growlithe, and the Arcanine Trial is the primary reason of why I'm currently living - maybe just a Growlithe with the Zoroark's signature ability of creating illusions, because everywhere I go in school, people seem to be pointing at me and staring while they discuss my possibly unfortunate fate of participating in the Quest to Justification. I wish I could create an illusion so I wouldn't look like me, just anything but me, because I hate when people talk about me. You don't know what they're saying - positive, negative, optimistic, pessimistic - I don't care, just as long as you aren't gossiping about me in any form, you're fine - in my personal standards. "I'll prove them all wrong," Xin mimicked me as we walked down the hallway. "They know nothing. Stupid idiots. I'll prove them all wron-" "Shut up, Xin," I grinned, but my paws were shaking. How was I supposed to tell father about this whole trial I signed up for without his consent? He'd probably be really angry, cross and upset. Maybe go as far to disown me.. no, he wouldn't do that. He's not that kind of parent. But he'll be mad for sure. I couldn't imagine it in my head - my brain had limitations to what it desired thinking about. After school, Xin and I walked home together, as we typically do. As we were about to go our separate ways, I spotted Kipper at the corner of my eye. "Hey! Kipper!" I called. He turned around, while running, and halted. He flinched for a second, but soon began to talk. "Oh, hi, you two!" "Why are you here? Don't you usually take the bus?" Xin asked, as Kipper walked towards us. "Yeah, but today I decided to walk. Taking the bus takes so much more time than just walking casually. I would get home much faster if I just walked, since the buses tend to take so long to come," he paused. "Sorry for not telling you guys, but I kind of just wanted to get home quickly. I've really been putting off my homework." Xin blinked. "Well, it's fine. See you at school tomorrow!" "See you!" I paused. "Kipper!" Kipper turned around. "Yeah?" "I've decided to not tell father tonight." "What?" Xin said, behind me, but I guessed she was used to this by now. "Oh, okay, I can understand," Kipper replied, giving off a shrug. Not the reaction I would expect from him, but okay. "It's just that, my father is rather poorly. I don't want to hit him with more bad news." "Riiight," Xin answered, rolling her eyes. "If you don't tell him by tomorrow morning, I'm truly going to attack you." "Yeah, right," I said. I'm training for the Arcanine Trial. I bet I could beat her in a few hits or more. Just wait, I thought. "Well, see you guys," Kipper said rather hastily, then set off again. Until Kipper was out of our sight, we began talking. "That was a bit weird," Xin said. "He sounded just like some sort of automatic robot. I guess there's something wrong." "Yeah, I think he's just a bit-" I stopped talking, remembering about how I hated people gossiping about me, no matter what it was about. How would Kipper feel if he found out? If he hypothetically placed security cameras all over town? "You know what, I feel a bit tired too. I can't be bothered anymore. See ya." "Uh, okay. Bye!" "Bye," I said, as I walked off. I held the Klefki keys in my hand and unlocked the front door. "Dad?" I called through the hallway. "Dad?" No one answered. My first instinct was to go to the living room, which was where I found him, sitting on the couch, holding a poster in his hand. "Son," he sighed, "are you really considering going to the Arcanine Trial?" "What?" "You know what I'm talking about," he said, flipping over the poster, so I saw the bold letters in printed black that read 'Quest to Justification'. "Where did you get this?" "I don't know," he murmured. "I was going outside to welcome you from school when I found this lying on the dirt. Didn't look like anyone really wanted it, so I took a read. Not many events going on nowadays, huh? Other than the Pokemon World Tournament, of course. But you're going to the annual Arcanine Trial? Year, you haven't even had proper training. You're wasting your education. Plus, you're way too young to become an Arcanine. Being a Growlithe at your age is the norm. You'll publicly humiliate yourself on the face of national newspapers." "Dad, I'm training," I replied, attempting to sound normal, but I was internally freaking out. "Plus, I've been waiting for this moment for so many years." "I'm sorry, son, but I simply can't let you go." "I have to! If I don't, I'll be seen as a coward." "Yes, better than becoming a laughing stock internationally for years to come." I sighed. "Dad, this is going to be my first chance at doing something interesting." "You heard me. You're not going." "Whatever," I muttered, beginning to turn back to my room. "Year," father said sternly, "You're not going. Hear me?" "Yes," I said in a bored and sarcastic voice, not wanting to hear any more. "I'll go do my homework," I said loudly, as I headed down the corridor to my bedroom, when, really, I was training.

V

I remember, once, when my pa had passed away simply of old age, my nana had moved in for a brief few months to get away from her home for a small while. She lived near the outskirts of the city, but we lived, more or less, in the center. The center, generally known as the 'Arc', is not as glamourous as it might sound. There are long, busy high streets that make it some sort of ideal tourist location, but, in reality, people tend to live in ditches and spare precious bits of land for living on. Usually, they would collect resources to build their ideal house, but some are so lazy they just gather loose leave piles and logs for sleeping on. Surviving on. But, now, I'm just drifting away from the story. I was young and naive and I had no idea of the situation that Nana was experiencing. I was ten years old, being homeschooled by Father. He worked at night and weekends, barely sleeping. I felt bad, but I still had to be educated. Before, Mother had homeschooled me, but, when she died when I was seven, Father persevered through many sleepless nights. In fact, on weekends, he would flop onto his almost completely broken bed and sleep for two days straight before jumping right into work again. When Nana came over, she had realised how much stress her son was experiencing. She stepped in and homeschooled me with her own knowledge, in which I learnt a lot more than I originally did with Father. Father got to work full-time again. Actually, Nana is a Pyroar. Pa was an Arcanine, of course. But, anyway, she taught me many things - important things. About attacking, defending, being a strong Growlithe (or possibly even an Arcanine in the future). She advised me to do the Arcanine Trial when I felt strong enough to face it. Right now, I feel strong enough. I feel great; I feel amazing. And, although I tell everyone that I simply just feel like I've waited too long, the above is the real reason - my Nana's motivation has made me feel ready. I never tell anyone, because I feel like it's just a secret between Nana and me, how we looked at things other than education and studying. My Nana was tired of seeing us so poorly and stressed, and therefore paid for the first three years of my schooling at 'some local private school'. It took out half of her money from her bank account. Yes, she was wealthy, but Father had denied her offers to give him money. He wanted to have a new beginning at somewhere new. She always obeyed her children's wishes and desires, but looked on at his future with the perfect pity. So, before she left to go back home, she gave me the bag with the school logo embroidered in the corner. Hugs and wishes were present. She said that when those three years were over, she would pay for the last two years. But halfway through my first year, she died. Natural causes. So, of course, as I said before, we have to pay for it ourselves. Somehow. Or I'll simply be removed. Nana's money was inherited by her eldest son. So, I am absolutely determined to complete this trial, first try only. For Nana. I grumbled under my breath as I readied myself to practise my attacking techniques. I lifted my bedroom window up to climb out into the so-called 'garden', A.K.A. a lonely field of grass behind our house that has a bunch of stacked-up logs surrounding it. It was fairly dark and ominous, but I had brought out a large torch and flickered it on, placing it in the corner of the garden. It lit up the whole field. Since every aspect of attacking had to be practised, I started with the immensely easy ones that I had learnt when I was around two or three. I did a Bite, which I perfected. I was practising with a large, heavy bag of sand that was originally placed near the edges of the field to stop droughts coming through. Then was Ember. I had learnt this one later, when I was three or four. Again, I perfected it, leaving a small burn on my second try. Flame Wheel was fine, as I had also left a burn on my third try. So was Reversal and Fire Fang. I was hesitant to use Take Down, as I wasn't great at it, and I also had a chance of damaging myself. I gulped and hit the bag, only for a hit to launch back at me. I used my defensive techniques almost immediately and rolled out of the way to avoid the other half of the punch. However, I did better with Flame Burst, Retaliate, Flamethrower (my personal signature move) and Crunch. Heat Wave was a struggle, as I had not mastered it quite yet, as it is traditionally difficult to control. Eventually, I fixed myself and managed to do it (somehow). I decided to practise it, after I had finished looking at all of my other avaliable moves. Outrage was a move that I was not fond of. Sure, it's powerful, but it has major flaws. I sighed as I began to practise it. I soon became dizzy and nauseous, which prompted me to head back inside, but I sat down, the world spinning in front of me, finally regaining control over my confused self. I finished off my practise with Flare Blitz, an attack that, although I do not particularly enjoy using, is certainly better than Outrage (in my honest opinion). I headed back inside to dust myself off briefly and sleep for the next day. Before I knew it, it was Friday, the day before I had to start travelling to the trial area.

VI

"Uh.. bye?" Xin called from the other side of the road, about to turn a corner. "Bye. We're still meeting up tomorrow morning, right?" I shouted, opposite her. "Uh, sure," Xin replied, and then disappeared into the corner, her bag that has the cute small fire symbol the last thing I see of hers. I sighed and walked over to my home, reaching for my keys. I unlocked the door, only for Father to be standing there. "Welcome back, Year." "Hi, dad." He walked over to the living room and I, subconsciously, followed him, sitting down as he remained up. "You have to promise me that you won't go to the Arcanine Trial." I paused, not knowing whether to lie or to tell him the plain truth of that I have already planned the whole journey out. "I've already told you this, dad," I muttered. "I'm not going." Father stopped. "Well, all I can do is pray that you're telling the truth. Year, I wish I could believe you, but I know what you're like. Promise me, if you go, all you're going to do is embarrass yourself. Continue your education like a sensible member of this family would." "I know," I answered simply. "I'm just trying to make you see sense. If you go, you'll do nothing but fail. Please, Year," Father pleaded. "I know, I heard you," I repeated. "I've already made up my mind; I'm not going." "If you go, I will really be upset. Although I can't bribe you, blackmail you, or even intimidate you, I can only say what's right for you and your future." "Dad, how many times do I have to say this? I'm not going," I said, glaring at this point. Father blinked. "Thank you, Year." I did expect some sort of hug, which is what he'd normally do in this type of situation, but he, simply, silently, exited the room. I can't really blame him. However, I slowly creeped over to my room and locked the door with my Klefki keys. Actually, Nana originally bought those keys. We went out shopping once, just her and me, into one of the most famous malls known in the Arc: 12 Flames. It's targeted towards Fire-type Pokemon. Before then, I hadn't been in it for a long time. When I was younger, Mother and I would go there, not to buy anything, but to sit at the reception chairs and see if a Moltres, Entei, Ho-Oh, Primal Groudon, Heatran or Reshiram would appear. Throughout that whole era of looking if we could see a legendary Pokemon, the best we ever got was an Entei. Lots of people crowded around it, starstruck, but Mother and I got right to the front of the crowd, admiring the beauty of the Pokemon I had only ever seen in glossy magazines my mother used to collect, finding them in the dirt and abandoned rubbish bins and carefully stocking them in a large plastic box, flicking through them with me whenever she had the time. In fact, we still have that box now, but I haven't laid my eyes on it in a long time. It's stowed away in the basement, a basement with dirt walls and torches used for lighting. In fact, you'll never guess, once, we saw a Volcanion, when Mother had accidentally went to sleep. I had to shake her to wake her up! Again, there was a crowd, but way bigger than when the Entei had came. I even saw some Pokemon calling others on phones for them to come over to see the Volcanion! It wouldn't be a lie to say that not everyone was terribly pleased, as Volcanions are naturally also, partially, Water-type Pokemon, so it could do a lot of inevitable damage. On the other hand, other than that, it was a great experience. So, Nana bought the Klefki keys. I was browsing through the mall, delicately smoothing my paws over those journals that had fluffy covers and specialised pens, when I saw those cute Klefki keys. I couldn't handle it! I knew I wanted them as soon as I saw them. They were cheaper than most of the other products on sale, but I don't think Nana even noticed that. She bought them instantly. That day when she bought them was my eighth birthday. I gathered everything I needed for the long journey: my notebook with directions of how I was supposed to get there, berries, tissues, a big bag (which I put everything in), lots of money (around £150 worth!) and some other entertainment-based things, such as books, games, etc. I even bought my beloved Klefki keys and torch (with Lanturn-themed colours). I had found that torch on the pavement, abandoned, when I was walking home with Xin from school one day. Xin was the first one to spot it, but she already had one, so she let me have it. I cleaned it up at home with some tissues. Now Xin and I have matching torches, which I think is pretty cool. I woke up very early the next morning to meet up with Xin, my bag hanging by my side.

VII

"I can't believe I'm doing this," Xin sighed. My head shot up. "What? Why?" If you needed doubts, then Xin would always be there to assist you and give you a long list of reasons for why you shouldn't do something, especially if it was something that initially seemed risky. Xin shook her head. "Whatever. I don't know. But, really, Year, your father is a lovely man.. I can't believe I'm doing this," she repeated, not contributing much to the 'conversation' we were having. "Maybe if we were raised under the same roof you would see all the bad and flaws in him." Xin paused. "Yeah, you're right," she replied, as we neared the bus station. "I guess I would say the same about my parents." "Heh." It always felt good outsmarting Xin. "Anyways, like I said before, I'll come with you on the bus ride to the train station. But no further than that, okay? If you knew how a bus actually works, then I wouldn't even bother walking with you there." "Okay, I get it. But what are the prices again?" "For the bus, it's £2. But I get to go on free, because I have a bus pass." "Ugh, I wish I had a bus pass," I exclaimed, rolling my eyes. "I'll get one when I get back home. In fact, why can't I just use yours?" Xin looked at me in shock, but quickly turned away. "Okay, I suppose it's a disadvantage, never having been on a bus before. But any idiot would figure out that using another's bus pass is illegal." I paused, but then grinned, although hesitantly. "I know, can't you take a joke?" I quickly covered up my stupidity, attempting to make out that the whole ordeal was as simple as a joke. "Yeah, whatever," Xin said, looking ahead, very clearly seeing right through me. I blinked. "Anyway, train prices?" I enquired, attempting to rid of the silence ringing through the air. "The trains that only travel within the capital cost £2. Trains that go outside of the city are £5," Xin put it simply. I nodded. "It's a lot cheaper than I expected," I admitted. "Yeah, I guess," Xin replied. We finally reached the bus station. No one seemed to be there except us. "Okay," I said as I quickly took out a page of loose leaf paper, full of the journey details. "We're looking for the.. 220 bus." Xin peeked at the sign. "It says that it comes every 5-8 minutes." "I suppose we have a fairly short wait, then," I said, bringing out my wallet. I took out £2. "..My heart is palpitating so fast." "Probably because you're going to some sketchy apartment building in the middle of nowhere while your father is having a panic attack having no idea where you are," Xin answered. I grinned, despite the situation. "Exactly," I replied. That seemed to symbolise the end of the conversation. Xin sighed. "I wish I had the guts to do this," she blurted out randomly. "What?" "Going against your parents' will so freefully.. I would never feel the pride and assertiveness to do it." "Yeah, okay. It doesn't really take much." "For you, that is." "Right." "I suppose it all stems from narcissism, doesn't it?" Xin grinned, looking my way. "Shut up, Xin," I grinned. "Heh." The 220 bus arrived, and I slotted in my £2, while Xin cooly scanned her bus pass and walked up the stairs to the upper deck. "This is so.. cool!" I said, seemingly to myself, a little too loudly. It wouldn't really have mattered, though, since there were very little people actually on the bus. There was a rather elderly-looking Sandslash and Muk (who seemed to be taking up all of the backseats to itself) downstairs and a couple composed of two Froslasses at the front of the upstairs deck. We went somewhere in the middle and I stumbled backwards as the bus began to move again. "I suppose the reason why it comes so frequently is because it goes to the train station, which, typically, is very busy," Xin analysed. "Right," I replied, nodding, although not really listening. My heart pounded harder and louder than ever, making its way up to my throat. I looked down at the windows, seeing the dark rush of closed shops and homes, declaring bedtime, lag behind the bus we were on. The roads were empty and seeing another car was a rarity, although observing other buses was interesting enough, since some had an upper deck and some didn't. I wondered why. "Hey, I hope you know which stop to get off at," Xin said, interrupting my train of thought. "Yeah," I replied, after a second-long pause. "Sphere City Station." "Okay," Xin answered. "I haven't been on the 220 for quite some time now, actually. I'm not quite sure of the stop before, but, since the bus is nowhere near crowded, we'll make it to the exit in time." "Is that what you're worried about?" I asked, nudging her. "Of course we'll have time. This is supposed to be a whole new high-tech thing, right?" "Not really," Xin replied. "Buses have been around ever since you were born and previously. I have witnessed cases where people are unable to get to the exit in time, but that was only because the bus was crowded and busy... I suppose you are correct with how the bus only has literally six people, but I guess I just want to make sure with things sometimes." I yawned, putting my paw to my mouth. "Are you finished yet?" "Yeah," Xin laughed. It was around twenty minutes ever since we got on the bus, and Xin was listening carefully to whenever the bus would announce the stop name. She started to get fidgety about whether or not we accidentally missed the stop or not. "Chill, Xin," I sighed. "You've done well listening to each stop, I'm pretty sure we haven't missed it." "Shh!" She said. "Here's another one!" The bus called out 'Somas Lane'. "Hey, I recognise that one. Perhaps that is the stop before the Sphere City Station," she thought out loud. "Uh-huh," I said, getting tired from the lack of sleep. As we reached the stop, I silently observed one of the Froslasses saying something to the other and getting out of the bus. After five minutes, the bus announced 'Sphere City Station'. "Hurry!" Xin called as she pulled my arm down the stairs, to the bus exit.

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