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Angel of the Shadows

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Plot Angel joined Team Rocket at 15 because she believed they were misunderstood in their efforts to change the world for the better. 8 years later, she's beginning to discover that their cause isn't as altruistic as she once believed. For now, she continues to fight for them, hoping her words and actions will bring back the Team Rocket she once believed in. After discovering the existence of Shadow Pokemon, and Team Rocket's nefarious plans regarding them, 23-year old Angel ends her association with the group and makes it her new life mission to rescue, protect, and ease the pain of as many Shadows as possible from all who desired them harm.

Main Team

Ebony - Born with a rare pigmentation known as Melanism, his black skin has made him a target for ridicule among all Pokemon. Eventually, he learned how to stand up for himself. Half Brave, half Timid, you never know when he'll pull through for you, and when he'll run and hide. His Citrine Gem never leaves his sight. Dreamer - Absol are naturally solitary creatures, but Angel has never seen one with a Lonely nature before. Dreamer seemed quite happy to be a part of the group, but there are many times when he takes off for a few days. He never says why, but it seems like he just gets sad on occasion and doesn't want to burden everyone else with his pain. Rosie - Originally from a rich Trainer, this Leafeon grew quite a stuck up attitude. She has mellowed out tremendously in the year Alexandria has had her, but she can still be quite Adamant when she really wants something done a certain way. Sylvie - This Naughty Shiny Sylveon constantly finds herself in sticky situations. Most of the messes she finds herself in are from her own curiosity, but trouble has a tendency to find her whether she goes looking for it or not. Be prepared for trouble when caught sneaking around with Unnamed. Anya- Abandoned by her owner, the poor Litten spends most of her time hiding in the main Facility, only coming out at night or when empty to eat, drink, and play. She avoids all Pokemon except Ebony, with whom she formed a special bond at first sight. Eventually, she relaxes enough to reveal an Impish personality, regularly joining Sylvie to create messes of mischief. Aleu - A sophisticated Lycanroc (Midday) with a Sassy attitude that regularly gets him into trouble with Rosie. The two bicker like young children, but their friendship is clear in the way they defend each other.

Secondary Team Members

Unnamed Sprigatito Unnamed Meowstic Partners Unnamed Orthworm Unnamed Mimikyu (More to be added)

Nanaki Flamel and Team

(More to be added later) Angel's father. Scientist and co-creator of their island home. Pinsir Blastoise Venomoth X X X

Minor Characters

Ally Giovanni Iggy Mally Maya Officer Jenny Petunia

Glossary

*As I am new to the fandom, this section is here to help me remember what items are used for and what some things are. Descriptions are based on my own google searches and discussion with avid fans All-Star Badge - Reward for beating Nanaki, Melody, or Angel Flamel at the Blossomly Island Gym Flamestryke - Name of the only building on Blossomly Island. The Flamel family, those responsible for the management and maintenance of the Island, and rooms for Challengers can be found there. Flaming Cheri - A mixture of Soda Pop, Berry Juice, and Pureed Cheri Berries. Integrity Points - A creation for the purpose of this story. Basically, a karma system for the MC, where doing good things awards 5 points, and bad things take 10 points. She must reach 5k to have Trainer rights restored to her. Current: 0/5,000 Kiosks - In a sense, telephone booths that can only communicate with other kiosks. These can be used as exchange centers if you have a need to transfer Pokémon to your Professor. Pokédex - A device that stores the info for all Pokémon. Most info, such as height, weight, location, rarity, personality, etc. is only revealed when a Pokémon is obtained. Other than that, the only info you will be able to see is the name, region, and dex entry. Pokénav - Its main purpose is to allow Trainers to communicate with and see the statistics of fellow League members. It also acts as a GPS, allowing you to navigate your way from Gym to Gym. Coordinators also use this to keep updated on the Contest status of their Pokémon and Contest locations/dates. Trainer Code - The number assigned to a Trainer when they begin their Journey, from 0 to 999,999 (as of G7). Each person has a second, Hidden ID, which serves to differentiate between two people with the same name, gender, and ID. There is only a 1 in 4,294,967,296 for two Trainers to *also* have the same Hidden ID.

A Note From Angel

Call me Angel. I have taken as many precautions to protect myself, including providing a false appearance and name. Perhaps one day, you will learn the truth about me. For now, secrecy is best. PokeHeroes News broke the story of the existence of Shadow Pokemon first. Since then, dozens of people have quested to find them. They're hard to find, and, like most Shiny, can be determined at a glance. These Pokemon are enshrouded in a purple aura, with a Shadow Skill based on their weakness. I intend to save as many Shadow Pokemon as I can from the nefarious hands of Team Rocket, Magma, Aqua, and all other such groups who wish to do them harm or experiment upon them. If you are a member of any, I would urge you to reconsider. I was a loyal Agent for many years until I discovered their true purposes. In order to prevent this from falling into the wrong hands, upon activation, the details of one adventure will be loaded. You will receive a notice when the next file is ready for download. Due to the danger of what I do, files will be provided at least once a week, maybe longer. It's all a matter of how long I can safely stay in one place. Should silence occur without me informing you first, please come to my aid! Each file has coordinates complexly encoded within. Would you like to know more? Reference files are found before the one titled "An Unexpected Visit". I have even created a Shadow Dex, providing you with knowledge of how to handle each Shadow should you encounter one. To minimize information obtained, the Dex is split into Regions. As time passes, I may provide ways to contact me. For now, content yourself with receiving these classified files. May Arceus provide.
Gaming || Writing || Angel of the Shadows Aliit Ori'shya Tal'din || Tai'shar Manetheren! SamanthaNBishop on Archive of our Own and Wattpad! Avatar of Trainer, Alexandria "Angel" Flamel, by Me Banner for me by Furret on PokeHeroes. Do not use without permission.
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Table of Contents
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Shadow Dex

Kanto

Clefable: Shadow Skill: Deafen. Deafens and disorients the opponent for 30 seconds. Clefable dwell in small groups in hidden places. Due to their superb hearing, they prefer quiet areas, away from humans. With hearing even more sensitive than normal, whispers can make the Shadow distraught. Gyarados: Shadow Skill: Silence. Prevents opponent from using moves such as Roar or Intimidate From the moment they evolve, Gyarados are struck by a desire to destroy. They will not calm until nothing is left. Shadows, however, seem incapable of such ferociousness. Raichu: Shadow Skill: Jump-Start. Sends an overcharged jolt of electricity into whatever it touches at the moment. Do not approach if you or your family have a history of heart problems. To prevent an overbuild of electrical energy, Raichu regularly discharge electricity into the ground from their tail. Shadows, however, have lost that ability, and so sporadically shock themselves or who/whatever is around them. Rapidash: Shadow Skill: Mock. A laughing whinny that brings to the forefront of the mind, a person's shortcomings in order to make them utterly lose faith in themselves and their abilities. Rapidash can go from 0 to 150 in ten steps. They are a sight to behold when they race, for the faster they go, the hotter their mane burns. Highly competitive, they can often be seen challenging others to races. Shadows seem to desire a win, and will play dirty to achieve it.
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1. An Unexpected Visit
Angel swore under her breath as she attempted to pull on her leggings. She’d gained a few pounds this month. Someone had released a new chocolate that was so yummy that she couldn’t get enough of it. Sadly, it looked like she would have to cut back on it just a bit. Soon, too. Her father would be very disappointed if he found out she’d put on a few pounds so soon after losing a hundred. Not that it should really matter, as her new daily routine kept her busy enough to keep her pear-shaped physique. Her father, however, was convinced that, with her sweet tooth and inability to stick to things, it wouldn’t take much to fall back into old habits. Sometimes she found it hard to juggle all the parts of her life. At least once a month, a member of Team Rocket approached her with a mission. Because of the randomnicity of it, she tried not to make herself available. It also kept her from doing things to learn how to run the All-Star Gym. Angel didn’t like to put time and energy into things she had little interest in, which made it so easy for her to spend all her free time *not* studying Pokémon battle moves and techniques. Or how to manage the All-Star Gym’s finances, etc. Having so much free time was another problem in and of itself, as she could never decide on what to focus on. Some days, she sat there doing nothing but reading and rereading her favorite books or writing poetry. She occasionally watched her father in his natural habitat, even though she barely understood what he did to begin with. When her father, Nanaki, bought the island, it was just a giant barren piece of land, which he’d terraformed into a wondrous symbiosis of all eighteen Types. The four of them, guests, and Trainers, resided in Flamestryke to maintain the island's purity. It had taken many years and a tremendous amount of money to purchase and design Blossomly Island. Within two weeks of their opening, they’d drawn dozens of tourists and even three Challengers. The entire thing was more like a Contest than a Battle. All your Pokémon could faint, and you win. You could take down all her father’s Pokémon with one of your own and lose. It was the way you fought with your Pokémon that mattered the most. How did you use the terrain to make their weaknesses a strength, and how did you react to your opponent doing the opposite? Since then, they’d received many more Challengers, thirty in fact. And of those, five earned the Symbiosis Badge. About two weeks ago, their last Challenger had impressed her father so much that he’d given her 10,000 Pokédollars. That was the first Challenge Angel had watched, and it had created a stirring within to finally head on her own Journey. After the Challenger left, her father approached her with the news that her mother was pregnant and that in six months, he’d be taking paternity leave. He’d asked her if she would take on the leadership of the Gym for those few months. The look on his face when she turned him down hurt. But it was what he mumbled after that broke her heart. He’d spoken of his joy at seeing all the tourists and Challengers coming to the All-Star Gym to immerse themselves in untainted nature or test their skills. If she didn’t take over for just those few months, he would have no choice but to shut it down. Even though he knew she had little knowledge or desire to run the place, he’d rather she be in charge than her brother. It was an argument she couldn’t disagree with. Even though she’d finally felt the Call, she accepted his request. It wasn’t for another six months; she would only need to receive tourists and Challengers for three months. More than possible. He’d worked so hard that he deserved that break. And she could tell he already felt bad about forcing her into something he knew she didn’t want. She’d have to hope Team Rocket didn’t call on her then. After all, she’d kept her involvement with them a secret for eight years. The frantic sounds of her Sylveon interrupted her thoughts and brought her back to reality. Her eyes refocused just in time to see Sylvie rush into the room, lose his footing on the new wooden floor, and slide into the dresser. Angel leaped from the edge of the bed to the dresser, scared that the force of his slide would cause the mirror to wobble off onto his head. But not only did her concern prove unwarranted, she overshot and slammed into the dresser. With a hiss, she grabbed her arm and smiled as she turned to her best friend. The first thing she noticed was the intense fear in his eyes, and she felt a sinking feeling in her heart. Despite his Naughty nature, Sylvie was quite a brave boy, but one thing terrified him. Person, rather. And that was Giovanni. Angel reached out and cupped Sylvie’s face. Her thumbs moved against his cheeks until he leaned his head into her hand. When she was certain he was calm, she told him to stay put and assured him she would take care of things. She leaned forward to kiss him on the forehead. Then, with the help of Sylvie’s ribbons and a small groan, she got to her feet. After a few deep breaths, she headed downstairs to the foyer. Her eyes widened as she saw Giovanni lounging on her couch, and his Persian lay on the floor before him. At first glance, it appeared asleep, but she could tell by its breathing patterns that it only pretended. So not only had he invited himself inside, but he’d also made himself at home. Anger filled her at his lack of etiquette, but she said nothing. Instead, she directed her attention to Giovanni and gave a small curtsy. “To what do I owe this…pleasure?” Giovanni’s lips curled up ever so slightly as he brought a glass of red liquid to his lips. A glance at the nearby cabinet said he’d helped himself to a Flaming Cheri, a drink she’d created and a staple of Fyreblossom Island. His Persian moved slightly, which drew her attention. She noticed some gray in its face, and she tilted her head. How old was that cat, anyway? The thing had to be pushing thirty years, if not more. “It’s been a long time since we spoke. Congratulations on the newest addition to the family.” His smile fell flat at her silence. “Usually, when a person gives congratulations, the recipient thanks them. Not stares at them as if they cannot form a response.” “I’m sorry!” She exclaimed as she bowed her head. He would see it as submission, but she intended to calm her anger at the several insults he’d given her. Angel hated how easily he could put her on edge. After a slightly longer than necessary pause, she met his eyes again. “You caught me off guard. I heard such statements from you are usually followed by bad news. I was worried you had something horrible in mind for me.” He waved his hand dismissively. “Rumors about people are usually wrong. You have a brain. It’s not difficult to do your research instead of blindly following the masses. Have I ever given you a mission where you had to do something wrong?” Giovanni didn’t wait for her to answer. “But I digress. I have a task for you. My preferred team isn’t due back for a few weeks. You’re not as good as I’d like you to be for this mission, but you are the best among the recruits.” The smile returned to Giovanni’s when he realized his words piqued her curiosity. Eyes still on hers, he reached down to the table with his free hand and slid an envelope to her. One that had confidential colors and the word written on it in bright red ink. How had she failed to notice that before? Angel picked it up and leafed through the dossier as she listened to Giovanni give a more in-depth briefing. “Surely, you’ve heard the news of strange Pokémon appearing worldwide. Rumors say that they’re stronger than normal Pokémon and slightly…crazed. The combination allows them to disrupt the habitats of natural Pokémon. There are even a few stories of skilled Gym Leaders having difficulty bringing them to heel.” She barely refrained from throwing his earlier words about rumors back in his face. Angel chose not to look at him so he wouldn’t see the emotions in her eyes. Instead, she continued looking over the data he’d given her. “If they are, in fact, so strong and dangerous, what makes you think I can help?” “You’ve worked with Team Rocket for what is it? Eight years now? Your various talents have been an asset to the organization. You have a marvelous success rate at bringing Pokémon and items stolen from us back without drawing attention. One of your finer moments was when you convinced a Murkrow to return and continue gathering discarded items for us. We’ve sent it on several retrieval missions since, and the tech pieces it has brought back have proven invaluable. Our understanding of Pokémon furthered immensely, and we learned new ways to help them.” Not feeling a response was necessary, Angel remained silent as she finished perusing the data. After putting everything back inside the envelope, she threw it in the fireplace and turned her attention back to Giovanni. The acrid smell of burning paper made her scrunch her nose, and she almost pinched it. But though it would have kept the smell out, he would have seen it as a sign of weakness. Giovanni set his empty glass on the table. Annoyingly, not on the coaster. But that was another thing she wouldn’t dare comment upon. He steepled his fingers, and his knuckles touched the bottom of his chin. “Excellent. Now that you’ve read over the data and blueprints I gave you, do you feel you are up for this task? The lives of dozens of Pokémon depend upon your success.” “I do. Just give me a week to—” “Time is of the essence. You leave tomorrow night at the latest for the Kanto Region. I leave it to you to find the quickest route possible.” He stood to leave, and his Persian was instantly alert beside him. Why would it pretend to be asleep? Almost at the door, he paused and turned back to her. “I truly hope you succeed in this, Alexandria. It is long past time I put your services to the best use possible.” Minutes later, Angel hadn’t moved from beside the table as she tried to wrap her head around what had just happened. A gentle mewl sounded from the stairs, and she looked up to see Sylvie. With positivity she did not feel, she coaxed him down the stairs. Based on his hesitation, she was certain he could feel her distress. Once he was beside her, he extended his ribbons to embrace her. She extended her right hand to stroke his head and chuckled softly at his loud, happy purrs. “I must leave for a while. You’re probably still scared and exhausted, but can you find Ebony and Dreamer for me? There will be some nummies in it for you.” Sylvie released his hold on Angel, spun a few times in excitement, and ran off to do as asked. It was only once she’d heard the chime of the Pokémon door that she set about tidying up. Her hands shook as she worked, and she did her best to manage her emotions as various scenarios went through her head. After she placed the glass in the sink and the bottle back in the cabinet, she hugged herself as she wondered if she should take Sylvie as well. But she shook her head at that thought. He disapproved of her association with Team Rocket and would likely be a brat. Angel’s hands clenched at her sides as she took several deep breaths. There was no need to be so scared about this. It was a slightly more important mission than she’d been trusted with. Besides, it could be the chance for the adventure she’d wanted for a few months. There were still three months before her new sibling arrived. Surely, this mission would be over by then. That bit of logic was the only reason she didn’t tell anyone she planned to go or even where to.
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2. Even Friendships Set Sail
Angel reached above her head and gasped in a mix of pain and satisfaction as her back finally popped more than she expected it to. Arms still above her head, right hand on her left elbow, she paused to watch a group of Wingull in the sky as they fought over what appeared to be a Goldeen. From this distance, it almost seemed they squawked the word "Mine". The thought was ludicrous, but it still made her laugh. "Angie! Darling!" At the sound of the captain's voice, Angel brought her hands to her sides and directed her gaze to her friend, who quickly closed the distance between them. Maya's warm hands wrapped around hers. "Yet again, I must thank you for the marvelous stories you share. Your imagination is a truly wonderful thing." Maya squeezed Angel's hands gently. "Remember. "'The Swanna' is only here for a few days. I hope to be the one to take you back home." She removed her hands from Maya's grip only to wrap them around hers. Angel almost told her those stories weren't from her imagination, but, as usual, when the urge hit her, she chose not to speak. People like Maya were a precious gift. There wasn't anything wrong with being a member of Team Rocket, but she knew what most people thought of them. Perhaps she would be brave enough to speak if she ever left the organization. Until then, the fear of losing those few she cared about kept her silent. "My business will take me a while, but I promise if I make it back in time, I'll come straight here so you can take me home." Angel gently squeezed her friend's hands and slowly pulled away. Before her hands completely let go of Maya's, she found herself pulled into a tight embrace. How did she hate being hugged so badly but feel like melting—in a good way—when it was from someone she loved and trusted? When Maya finally drew back a minute later, Angel whimpered softly. Thankfully, Maya was already several feet away as she skipped back to her cabin, happy as a Ribombee. Once Maya closed the door behind her, Angel turned and headed down the landing bridge onto the docks of Vermilion City. The city's layout returned to her so easily that it took her about ten feet to realize she'd started toward the Pokémon Center. It must be a habit from the previous times she'd been to town, as she hadn't expected to see or visit Nurse Joy this time. Not after the last visit, when something Joy said made her feel as if she was only there because of her ability to communicate with Pokémon. Many Trainers could connect to and speak with their Pokémon after some time together. Angel was a Pokémon person and so found it easy to talk to any animal after a little bonding. It was like a different language, and she didn't always understand. Her father and Maya regularly told her she would have made a great Nurse, and she agreed. She would gladly use her gift to help all Pokémon she could. Just not when she felt it was the only reason someone wanted her around. Since she wouldn't stay at the Pokémon Center this time, Angel called ahead to her friend Ally and got permission to crash at her place. Ally lived...Angel spun around in circles a few times as she looked down each street that intersected her position. She sought familiar landmarks, but this part of Vermilion City seemed to have changed from the last time she was here. After the fourth spin, she recognized a small shop and headed down the path. Her mind wandered as she walked, but she paid enough attention to her surroundings to know if danger approached. She thought of how she'd be at the Silph Company in Saffron City tomorrow. If her father knew, he'd be so jealous! Too bad she couldn't tell him. They both knew she didn't have the intelligence to work there, and even an invitation to someone as lowly as herself would have seemed suspicious. Her father naturally assumed she was somewhere on the island in meditation when she disappeared, and that's what she wanted him to believe. The less he knew about what she did, the better off he would be. Not that that would really help much if her association with Team Rocket were ever to become known. Though she truly did believe their hearts and interests were in the right place, she knew what people thought of them. And knew people tended to attack those "guilty" by association. It would destroy everything he worked for. Sometimes, she questioned why she did this when it posed such a great risk to her family and her few friends. Their well-being was just as important as their trust and respect, and all of them would be difficult to repair. But she was taught that the right way wasn't always easy. That was also true in reverse, but... It took several seconds for her mind to register the change in the sound of her footsteps, and as she paused, she shook her head and blinked her eyes several times. When she was fully back in reality, she looked around at her surroundings and gasped when she realized she was in one of the less desirable parts of town. How had she gotten so lost in her thoughts that she wound up here, at least five streets out of the way of her destination? In the distance, she heard a motorcycle as it sped through the streets. When the sound continued to grow, she knew it was headed her way. Angel turned around and sighed, relieved when she saw it was Officer Jenny. She must have heard she was in town and figured she'd stop by for a chat. However, wouldn't Jenny still be on the clock for another hour or so? Even so, it begged the question of why she hadn't just chosen to meet up at Ally's. The only other explanation she could think of was that Jenny had gotten a call from someone out here and that this meeting happened to be a coincidence. Jenny pulled onto the side of the road nearest her, and, as she didn't think much of it, Angel turned around in circles again to get her bearings. After a few spins, she stepped toward her destination, but a hand gripped her left wrist tightly. Angel jumped, and her free hand reached into her pouch for her Cheri spray as she spun around. When she saw that it was just Jenny, she relaxed and exhaled. "You gave me a fright!" Officer Jenny didn't immediately answer, which was strange. Night had fallen during her meander, and the rising moon barely provided enough light to see Jenny's face. A nearby lamp lit up, and Angel glanced at it long enough to see a Litwick perched atop it. When she looked back at her friend, she could make out tight lips and anger-filled eyes. What happened? Anxiety filled her, and she tried to pull her hand away, but Jenny only tightened her grip. Had someone discovered her ties to Team Rocket? She remained silent because she didn't want to reveal something she shouldn't. Eventually, Jenny spoke. "Alexandria Flamel, you are under arrest for the destruction of The Swanna. Speak wisely, as anything you say goes into the records. You have the right to a representative. If you don't have one, we will assign one to you. Do you understand your rights as I have spoken?" For a while, Angel stared at Jenny, mouth agape, as she tried to process her words. Thoughts of Maya filled her head, and she made a mental note to check on her friend before returning home. She tried to pull her hand free again. This time, Jenny reached into one of her pouches and brought out a pokéball that was sure to hold a Mightyena. "Look...I don't know what you're talking about. When we arrived at the Port, I departed and instantly left. It took me," Angel looked up at the sky, then back, "a little over an hour to get this far. You have the wrong person." "We have an eyewitness who says otherwise. They saw someone matching your description flee from the port as the boat caught fire." "'Matching my description'. Not confirmed. You know me. And you know that Maya's a dear friend—of which I have very few. I would never do anything to harm you, Maya, or Ally. Ever. Even though I'm probably the only young'un with silvery hair in the city, the witness must be mistaken. There's no way I could or would have done it. And you know it." The grip lessened, but Jenny didn't release her hold. "I—" Jenny closed her eyes and breathed in deeply. After a few seconds, she exhaled, and when her eyes opened, Angel could see she fought back tears. "I'm sorry, but I'm just doing my job. Please don't make this harder on us. Just come with me for questions. There's no doubt in my mind we can work this out." "I've already given my story! Isn't my word enough?" Angel didn't give her time to respond. "Even you know that you have the wrong person. Why insist on formalities and by-the-books when it's a waste of both our time and energy? After all, instead of arguing with me after I told you I'm innocent, you could have left to make progress on finding the real culprit and making them pay." After she said those words, Angel turned and walked away but didn't make it far. "If you walk away from me, I won't protect you any longer." Curiosity caused Angel to pause and turn around, and Jenny continued to speak. "I—I know your secret. Have for a few years now. Why, Feathers? How could you align yourself with the likes of Team Rocket? Your skills are too good for them. You should use your talents for something that will have a positive benefit." Feathers. Now, there was a name she hadn't heard since she was young. All because she had climbed a tree to see a bunch of newly hatched Taillow. The Swellow hadn't much cared for her presence and chased her through the forest. When she arrived back in town, covered in mud and feathers, she was still as excited as she could be from her adventure. Word of it earned her that nickname. Angel shook her head to make herself focus on the problem at hand. "You've put me in a difficult position. I have important business to attend to, and—" Before speaking next, Jenny crossed her arms. "Is it something to do with Team Rocket? Because if so, it's not more important than our friendship." "Our friendship?" Angel scoffed. "You want to arrest me for something you know I didn't do. I know you're just doing your job, and I don't want you to lose it. But I also don't want our friendship to end. In the past, I've suffered for things I didn't do, and I refuse to allow that to happen ever again." Jenny sighed and shook her head. Some tears in her eyes flew outward. "You're not the one in a difficult position. I must take my best friend in for a crime she didn't commit or get reprimanded and possibly lose my job. Or let her go, knowing that any future actions for Team Rocket would be on my hands and conscious. If others knew of your association with Team Rocket—a fact which I would have to make note of—your family would suffer." "Enough!" Angel forcefully swung her right arm through the air as a gesture of anger. The rare outburst caused Jenny to take a step back. "I'm so sick and tired of hearing about how evil they are. They have good intentions. I know it. It's not their fault some of their members have made grave mistakes and poor judgment calls. They're just misguided and misunderstood. Besides, even if you arrested me, nothing says you must mention my association with Team Rocket." "Oh, you poor, naïve soul. Come to your senses! Why can't you see not all people are as pure in heart as you want them to be? As much of a heroic trait as that is, it is also a serious flaw. Your blind and undeserving trust in people will one day be your downfall. Please, for the love of Arceus! Come to the Light and fix this mistake before it becomes a regret." "Shouldn't you love that about me? After everything I've been through, I still see the good in people. I allow myself to be hurt time and again because I can't accept the fact that there are individuals out there who thrive on the pain they inflict on others." Angel squeezed her eyes shut to hold back her tears. It didn't. She felt her fingers tremble but forced her arms to remain at her hips. After several deep breaths to calm herself, she trusted herself enough to speak. "Tell you what. If I ever discover I was wrong, I will turn myself in and accept responsibility for everything I did with Team Rocket. But you must find a cover story that won't affect my father." "That...That's not going to alter my decision. Since that day, whenever something happened while you were in town, I covered for you as best as possible. If you walk away from me now, I won't make excuses for you anymore. I won't let myself go down to protect someone incapable of seeing the truth. Even though it angers me to know that you would make a mockery of everything I've sacrificed for you." "You mean to tell me you automatically assumed that I was behind every problem that occurred while I was in town? How dare you stand there and lecture me on friendship when that statement makes you sound like such a jerk? Goodbye, Officer Jenny." The two fell silent, uncertain of what to say or do next. After what seemed like an eternity, Angel ran off, unable to handle being in her now ex-friend's presence any longer.
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3. Bellossoms in the Wind
Angel's movements were stiff as she headed away from Jenny. Every couple of steps, she felt the urge to look back. She felt like she was in one of those movies where someone watched another walk away. Only this time, she was on the walking end, doing her best not to look back. Doing so implied hope, and she didn't feel there was any chance of mending this burnt bridge. The tingling in her back told her that Jenny watched her as she walked away and possibly hoped for that movie lookback. But Angel finally understood why the walker sometimes chose not to look back. They knew that to do so would be to give in to their hearts. This was for a reason stronger than their bond. If she were to look back, she might change her mind. And right now, she had to leave Jenny behind. Numb, she let her feet lead the way. Ten minutes later, she tripped on something. When she saw that it was the bench near Ally's house, she questioned if she should take some time to collect herself first. If her friend saw her as she was now, Angel would be in for many questions she didn't have the energy to answer. She did not want to end two friendships in one night. In the end, she chose to rest for a bit. "Bell?" Angel blinked, only to find that she couldn't see. Her hand went to wipe whatever it was away, and she found herself surprised when she felt wetness. When had she started to cry? A pair of hands gently touched her knees, which drew her attention to the Bellossom that stood before her. On the right hand was a wristlet made of tightly woven flowers, marking him as Ally's Petunia. Once he noticed he had her full attention, he smiled, took a few steps back, and began to dance and sing. It was a story of the meeting of an Alolan and Galarian Vulpix, who quickly became the best of friends. Over time, the two grew closer, but sadly, they were separated during a blizzard. He gave a few quick stanzas about their journeys as they struggled to find each other again. Suddenly, he stopped and reached out his hands to her, and she couldn't hold back a sigh. Petunia's stories always ended this way. He would spin a marvelous tale, get to the most crucial part, and never reveal the ending. "Why do you do that?" Petunia tilted his head, but Angel could see through his act of innocence. "You never finish your stories." Angel booped him gently on the nose. "Why do you keep people hanging?" He launched into what she expected would be a quickly spoken, long-worded explanation and began to make the "slow down" gesture with her hands. But he was already done by the time she lowered her hands once. It took her a few seconds to replay what he had said. While stroking the petals of a flower on his head, she said, "Life is whatever we choose to make of it." The flowers on his head spun a few times as he held out his hand and muttered words of encouragement to her. After a little while, Angel took his hand and allowed him to lead her. As they walked, he rattled on, mostly about every event he could remember worthy of telling her since she'd last visited. From the bits and pieces she could pick up during his rapidly excited speech, he had some really interesting stories she'd have to ask about when he was calmer. As they arrived at the door, her mind was still processing his last revelation about a relationship between Maya and Ally. He opened the door, and his happy mood was instantaneously gone as he rushed from her side to a woman on the floor beside the couch. The woman lifted her head from the creases of her arms at the sound of the door as it opened, and when she noticed Petunia, she unwrapped her arms from her knees and pulled him into a tight embrace. Angel finally recognized the person as Ally through the smudged and flushed face. Angel shut the door behind her, but she headed toward the kitchen instead of going to her friend. It only took a few seconds to locate the most recent location of the coffee pot. A touch of her fingers against the glass informed her that it hadn't been off long, so she poured a cup for Ally. When she returned, Ally was on the middle cushion of the couch. One of Petunia's hands stroked her left arm, but Ally didn't seem to notice his presence. Or hers. Angel passed the hot cup of coffee into Ally's hands and sat on her other side. Uncertain what to say, Angel placed a hand on Ally's leg. A few minutes passed before she finally asked what was wrong. When a sniffle and a drink were her only answer, she stood and did various chores around the house. She'd been where Ally was now before. In a state of mind so dark and overwhelming that she couldn't bring herself to do anything. It was clear that Ally had been low on energy for a while now. Even though what she was doing would provide little help to someone who'd just let it get this bad again, there were fewer things Ally would have to worry about while she processed her emotions and fought through this. An hour later, Angel returned to the couch and reached for the now-empty cup on the coaster. A hoarse, angry voice told her to get out. She paused and turned to her friend. Ally looked furious at her. But why? What in the world had she done? Better yet, how could she have done anything when they hadn't seen each other in so long? Was that it? Had Ally missed her that much and was mad she hadn't contacted her? When she didn't move, Ally screamed as she leaped to her feet. "Get out! I don't want you here. Or Petunia, for that matter." Angel still didn't move as she tried to figure out what she could have done to deserve this. Eventually, she remembered Petunia's last words before he opened the door. Something about Ally in a relationship with...No. She shook her head, and tears filled her eyes as she dared not believe it. "I heard about the fire. But I didn't realize the two of you had grown that close. Maya can't be dead." She didn't see it coming, but Angel felt the heat on her cheek from Ally's well-placed slap. It was so strong that her head jerked from the force, and she turned back to her friend, mouth open to speak. But she was cut off. "Officer Jenny recently left. She told me everything. I loved you like a sister! So did Maya! We were talking about sister-wives with you. How could you do something like this?" "Okay, first." Angel completely ignored the slap, as she knew it was something Ally had felt she needed to do, so she would grin and bear it. "I didn't know the two of you were together until like two minutes ago—" "That doesn't make a difference!" Ally's hands trembled at her sides. "I'm not saying it does," Angel's hands shook as she tried her best to remain calm, despite the anxiety flooding her at the confrontation. "I don't know what happened, but I swear to Arceus, I will make whoever killed our friend pay." "I already know who did it! And Arceus help me. If you don't leave my house now, along with Petunia, I will call Officer Jenny. Consider it my last act as your 'friend'." Something hit Angel in the chest, and she looked at the floor to see a pokéball. Shock filled her, and she met Ally's tear-stained eyes. "Please. You're not in your right mind now. I understand you want someone to pay, but you can't push away the only ones left in your life." That was the wrong thing to say, as Ally screamed at the top of her lungs for them to get out. Certain there was no point arguing now, Angel picked up the pokéball, grabbed Petunia, who was hysterical as he tried to get back to Ally, and ran into the chilly cold of the night.
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4. A Clefable of Sorrow
Shadow Skill: Deafen. Deafens and disorients the opponent for 30 seconds. Clefable dwell in small groups in hidden places. Due to their superb hearing, they prefer quiet areas, away from humans. With hearing even more sensitive than normal, whispers can make the Shadow distraught. After she fled Ally's, Angel ran until she couldn't anymore. She wound up half a mile outside the city, and when she spotted a bench nearby, she headed toward it. When she arrived, she collapsed onto it and let the tears fall. Petunia tried to soothe her, even though she knew he was upset, too. Which honestly made her feel bad that she was being selfish and putting her pain first. But when both parties were in this much pain, the only thing that could be done was just silence together. Eventually, they fell asleep. When she opened her eyes, it was early morning, and she could feel Petunia against her chest. Heh. Why had he stayed with her when Ally needed him more? Perhaps he understood that Ally needed some time alone to calm down and realize she'd overreacted, so he chose to stay with Angel, a decision she was beyond grateful for. Little things like this made her certain Pokémon were more sentient and aware than most people gave them credit for. Unfortunately, many Trainers treated them as inferiors rather than equals. Or saw them as mere tools and a means to an end. Angel sat up and stretched, and a blanket fell to her waist. The crisp early morning air made her shiver, and as she pulled cottony material around her shoulders, a familiar smell made her pause. She brought a small portion to her nose and inhaled deeply. Yup. Poochyena. Her gaze drifted back toward the city, where she half hoped to see Officer Jenny in the distance. But by the chill of the material, she knew whoever had placed it upon their sleeping forms was long gone. As she watched the sunrise, she tried to accept everything. But it was all just too much, too fast. Without proper time to adjust, she would likely cave in on herself. It had happened before. The only thing she could hope for right now was that her breakdown didn't happen at the wrong time. Oh, how she wished she'd brought Sylvie along. Or, at the very least, her Sprigatito plushie. Never had she been alone in this type of situation. Granted, she currently had three Pokémon with her. But their companionship had never been as calming as flinging herself at her father and crying into his chest until she fell asleep to his heartbeat. Or being entangled in Sylvie's ribbons. Her intense anxiety was the biggest reason why she hadn't gone on her Journey yet. She'd hoped to one day overcome her fear, but more and more, it was looking like an impossible task. Perhaps she should face the music and go for it. Maybe an adventure would be the answer she'd sought all along. Her fingers brushed against one of Petunia's flowers, which caused him to awaken. He stretched so adorably before he sat up and leaned into her for warmth. For a while, neither of them said anything. Once the gorgeous shades and hues of the sunrise had settled off, Petunia broke the silence with a single word. One that managed to crush her heart. "Home?" She reached into her pocket and pulled out his shrunken pokéball. "I'm sure Ally doesn't want to see me yet. She's probably really worried about you, though." Angel placed the pokéball in his left hand. "Friends?" Angel had to hold back a sob at the desperation in his voice. "Ally's really mad at me right now because she thinks I did something bad, but I know she'll realize I was telling the truth with time. I hope she still considers me a friend once she calms down. But she might not for a long while. People in her state of mind need someone to blame for what happened. It is easier to do that than deal with the real issues. Without knowing the facts, she can only blame me, the one all evidence points to. But us?" She reached out a finger to boop his nose. "We're still friends." "Soon?" Petunia scooted off the bench, then turned to look at her. "Again, that's up to her. Not right now, but when she's much calmer, you tell her I'm not mad at her. I'm still her friend and will be there when she needs me. She knows how to reach me. As soon as she does, I'll drop everything and come visit." Angel paused and debated as to whether she should say more. Instead, she gave Petunia a gentle shove back toward the city to encourage him to leave. "Go on, now." He turned away from her and took a few steps before he paused and looked over his shoulder. Petunia said, 'Love is forever,' before he headed back home. She didn't respond to his last statement because she knew the heartbreaking truth. Love didn't always last forever. It took both people hard at work, determined to keep the bond. And even then, it didn't always work out for whatever reasons. That was one reason why she preferred the company of Pokémon over humans. They were among the most loyal and accepting of anyone or anything. Yet, they still had limits and would completely turn their back on you if you gave them enough reason. Jenny, Ally, and Maya were the only people she liked being around. And her family, of course, even though they drove her crazy. Maya. Her heart ached again. It never failed that every time she began to feel content or braver, something shattered her and set her back months of progress. Going back and forth between a figurative Silcoon and Beautifly was starting to wear thin on her. She wished she had the mental maturity to move on. Angel knew it was detrimental to her to constantly let things she'd already moved past affect her. But the fact life kept throwing stuff at her had to mean she was still doing something wrong. It was the analyzation of why she kept getting the short end of the stick that kept her mind in the past. In hindsight, many of her problems over the years were self-inflicted, but still. One should never have to suffer so much for their mistakes. Her hands clenched on her legs. Why did she always do this? She had everything she could ever want. Her life was practically perfect. Why was she always so unhappy and cynical? Always expecting everyone to hurt, use, betray, or abandon her? Footsteps sounded, and Angel looked up to see two people headed her way. They paused a couple of feet from the bench and began to argue loud enough for her to hear what they were on about. "I'm tellin' ya! I saws what I saws! It honestly hurts tat you think your grandpa is a crazy ol' man." The older man gestured strongly with his hands, but the younger female just shook her head and sighed in frustration. "I never said you were crazy, and I don't doubt you saw it. But I do doubt it exists." From this angle, Angel could barely make out the woman's face, but it was clear that she did think her grandfather was crazy. He sighed, frustrated, and threw his hands in the air, clearly exasperated. "I ain't stupid eithers. That means you think it exists only in my head!" Angel stood, but before she headed toward the couple, she folded the blanket on the bench for the next traveler to use if they so chose. She spoke once in polite conversation distance but still far enough away to have not taken the pair by surprise. "Excuse me?" Even so, they jumped as if she'd appeared out of thin air. "May I ask what exactly you're discussing?" The man glared at her. "Why? So ya can make fun of me toos? It's all the same with ya whippersnappers. We're suppos ta believe everythin' ya says without hesitation, but ya won't bother returnin' the favah." She waved her hands defensively in front of her. "No, no! I've seen many things that most people would say are impossible. I'd love to learn more. And see where it happened, if possible." His eyes lit up like holiday lights, unaware of his granddaughter frantically motioning from behind him for Angel not to encourage him. The act elicited a smile from Angel, which caused the man to turn around. But his granddaughter was now completely innocent, hands behind the small of her back, a smile on her face. She batted her eyes at him twice before she stretched out a hand to Angel. "I'm Mally. This eccentric fellow is my grandpa, Iggy." After she stared at it for a few seconds, Angel took the hand offered her, but she hesitated before she spoke. "Name's Alexandria. I'm on my way to Saffron City but will gladly take a detour to see what your grandfather is so excited about." She wasn't entirely sure if it was her paranoid imagination or if they really had a very small reaction to her name. Either way, her heart had begun to beat rapidly. And with zero ability to read any form of social cue, she was certain this would end badly. To hide her uneasiness, she brushed a lock of hair out of her face as an excuse to wipe the sweat from her brow. "Are ya sures? It would be a bit outta ya way. And ya might not sees anythin'." Angel looked to the older man, who still had a hopeful and expectant demeanor. He seemed eager to prove to his granddaughter that he was not crazy. "Honestly. It's not a problem at all." She followed Iggy and Mally as they headed back towards the city. Five minutes later, they paused at a pair of trees. At first, Angel couldn't see anything that marked the area as special. On her third look, she noticed the lack of branches within a two-foot space. Ah. It was a little-known path into the forest. Confirmed seconds later by Iggy. "Not many people know this here path. I only dos cause I used'ta be the Ranger around these parts. Ya wouldn't think much of it, but a lotta poachin' goes on. Mostly by those mangy teams. What're their names again, dearie?" "Magma, Aqua, Flare, Galactic, Plasma, Skull. There are so many of them." Mally spoke the names as if by rote. "But it's not just them. Many individuals do it as well. There are a lot of Pokémon who have at least one quality that makes them sought after. It's to the point that some of them are being placed upon a Protection list." "Now, I don't wanna go down there again. Seems a few Pokémon don't understands why I stopped comin' to see thems, and they're mads at me." "So...Did you see the Pokémon in person or not?" Angel winced slightly as her question came out slightly ruder than she intended. "Nuh-uh." Iggy shook his head. Either he hadn't taken offense to it or hadn't noticed, with the latter the more likely of the two. "I saw it on one of the cameras I installed. But when I went to show Mally proof of it the next day, it was already gones." "The Pokémon or the video?" "Both. I think whoever's been poachin' lately had somethin' to dos with it. But Mally believes I'm seein' things. Even thoughs she can't explain why two minutes are missin' from the log." "Well!" Angel stretched her arms above her head and bent from side to side once. "One way or another," she bent her arms, elbows out, fists at chest, twisted right, then left. "We'll know the truth soon." He frowned. "Just 'cause ya can't see somethin' don't mean it don't exists. Just means ya weren't lucky. Ya know...Like with all them Legendaries and the super rare Pokémons." "Oh, don't you worry. Pokémon love me. I can practically guarantee I'll have the proof you seek." Angel didn't wait for a response and immediately began the trek down the path into the forest. Within minutes, she was far down the path away from any quick source of help. Well, except for Dreamer and Ebony, that is. Since she hadn't expected to fight other Pokémon or people—not that she'd do the latter unless absolutely necessary—the two were the only Pokémon she'd brought. So, hopefully, they could handle whatever creature Iggy had seen. If he'd seen anything. Despite how much she had witnessed and knew was possible, her father's memory failed him on occasion. And that was saying something because he wasn't quite as old as Mally's grandfather. Eventually, it led into a clearing, where she paused and looked around. After a minute or so, just as she was about to head back, she heard a noise, and her hand instantly went to her belt to open Dreamer's pokéball. But when she heard the sound again, she picked up on agony in the voice. Whatever Pokémon it was, it was obviously in pain. Quietly, she called out. "Hello?" Though her words were gentle, the Pokémon screamed again. Angel looked around but didn't see anymon in the clearing. "Hello?" This time, she whispered and heard a somewhat pained response. "Can you come out? I won't hurt you." After a minute or so, a Clefable stepped out from one of the bushes. But it was unlike any she'd seen before. At first glance, it looked normal, but a closer inspection revealed a purplish tinge to its color, and a shadowy aura of the same color surrounded its form. It took a few steps, stumbled to the ground, and screeched again. Tears filled her eyes as she watched it just lay there, hopeless and helpless, obviously in agony, as it tried to cover its ears with its hands. She rushed to its side and helped it sit up. For a while, the only thing she did was hold it and listen to it breathe as it tried to relax. Finally, she couldn't be silent any longer. In a voice even softer than before, she spoke. "What's wrong?" It chose to remain silent for a while. When it finally spoke, it revealed that, he apparently, had no clue how he came to be here. The only thing he remembered was people sticking him with needles who ran tests on him day in and day out. All the while, he was in a circular enclosure of some sort that was filled with liquid. People were always around him, and they always spoke loudly. They even tapped on the glass, which drove him crazy. He never got the chance to sleep, for they woke him up each time he was almost at that point. But what stood out to her the most was the mention of the red "R" on the door, uniforms, and everything. For now, she ignored the mention of Team Rocket and instead changed the topic. "This...aura about you...Were you like that before? Or did this happen during?" His response was a confused sound, which led Angel to believe he had always been that way. After all, when something is the only thing you've ever known or experienced, to imagine anything to the contrary would be beyond comprehension. He said he had been in a testing tube his whole time there, so it was unlikely he saw any normal Pokémon. Suddenly, he leaped up and ran off into a nearby bush. Angel almost called out to him, but footsteps caught her attention, and she turned back to the clearing entrance to see Mally approach. Her grandfather wasn't with her. She began to lift a finger to inform her to lower her tone, but Mally had already begun to speak. And what she said was quite a shocker. "Well, there you are! I was beginning to think you recognized us and decided to snag the Shadow for yourself." "Recognized you? How do you know about Shadows?" Mally brought her hand to her mouth as she laughed. "Oh my. You mean to tell me you haven't been fully informed of this mission?" "Lady, I don't even know who you are nor what possible acquaintanceship the two of us share." "You're really out of the loop then. Let me make it clear as crystal for you. Both of us," she motioned her pointer finger to herself and then to Angel, "are Agents of Team Rocket. Giovanni sent me on a mission to retrieve a Shadow. I assumed you'd been sent on the same mission when I saw you. Course. I wasn't sure it was you until you said your name." Ah. So, she hadn't imagined the reaction earlier. "You're lying. Giovanni came to me in person to recruit me for a very important task in Saffron City. My job has nothing to do with a...Shadow, you said?" "Good. Then I shall finally get the promotion I've deserved for so long. As for you? I believe I speak for all Agents when I say that your sudden disappearance would be quite beneficial." "Say what now?!" Angel stood, the pokéballs for Dreamer and Ebony ready in her hands. "You heard me, grunt. The beloved pet of Giovanni. Hated by all other Agents due to the courtesies given you. Allowed so much because your skill is such an 'asset'. How do you manage to act so goody two shoes all the time?" Angel laughed at that. "You're not a member of Team Rocket. Giovanni would never have hired someone with your lack of manners and disregard for life." "Oh. Em. Gee." Mally burst out in hysterical laughter. "It's not an act? You truly think Team Rocket are good guys? Darling, we're as bad as you can get. Haven't you ever wondered why you never met another Agent? Never been to our facilities? The rewording of your missions so you feel you are doing the right thing. Everything to ensure that the mission gets done, and you end up none the wiser. Well. It's time you knew the truth." "The truth? You just told me you wanted me out of the way. Why should I believe anything you say when it could be nothing more than a means to an end?!" "Girl, don't you dare lie to me! To me! I can see it in your eyes. You're having doubts. Tell you what. If you give me that rare Sableye, I'll let you go. I'll tell Giovanni that you failed miserably and aren't worth his time." "And if I were to tell him you spilled the beans on what Team Rocket is truly about? Don't you think Giovanni would be immensely teed off? You'd be "taken care of", just as you plan to do to me." "You're right." Mally feigned shock and worry before she smiled and reached for a pokéball that hung from the strap under her left chest pocket. "I shouldn't leave you capable of telling the tale." "Cover your ears!" the Clefable yelled from behind her. With precious little time to react, Angel covered her ears just as a screech to rival all screeches filled the clearing. She and Mally fell to their knees in pain. Their eyes met, and she knew they would forever be nemesi. After ten seconds, Mally struggled to her feet. Still disoriented, she staggered to the edge of the clearing and then paused. She wobbled, stretched out her hand to balance herself against a tree, and turned back to face Angel. Mally held out her other hand, revealing a shrunken pokéball. "You may have the Shadow, but I have your Sableye!" A glance around where she'd fallen showed Dreamer's pokéball beside a rock. Geometry agreed that if a pokéball hit the rock at the right angle, it would have been sent Mally's way. By the time Angel turned back towards the path, the woman was already hidden by the darkness of the trees as she made her way back up. Frozen with the shock of what had just happened, Angel didn't chase after Mally. Instead, tears fell from her eyes as she repeated the word 'no' repeatedly. Eventually, she had the strength of will to move, but she still didn't give chase. Mostly because she knew that the pair were likely long gone by now. So, she beat her fist against the ground until the side of her hand began to bleed. All the while, she sobbed, so hysterical she could barely breathe. The Clefable came up beside her and offered assurances. The thought crossed her mind that if he hadn't screeched, Ebony would still be here. It made her hate him. Yet, deep down, she knew that she would have lost Ebony one way or another. At least, this way, she was still alive. She couldn't tell how much time had passed in the forest with her just sitting there. But after a while, she spoke as softly as possible as she tried to make her hoarse voice audible. "My father is a genius. I believe he can help you with your hearing problem. If you're willing, you can come along with me." He made an unintelligible sound as she brought out a pokéball and shook his head. Angel frowned, uncertain if he'd spoken gibberish at that moment or if she was so out of it she couldn't communicate as well as usual. When his eyes drifted to the pokéball, the realization hit her. "I'm sorry. But it would be best if you went in there. I know you might not like enclosed spaces right now. My main concern is you being seen. I can't protect you. So, if another Team or those two show up again, they'll take you. And you'll be back in a tube." His head shook furiously, clearly not a fan of the idea. "You're going to have to choose. Which would you prefer? Pain until you can no longer take it? Or a few days in a pokéball while I get you the needed help?" It took him a while to respond, but she breathed a sigh of relief when he did. "I know you're putting a lot of faith and trust in me. You won't regret it." He made a sound as she enlarged the pokéball, and his words caused her to shake her head. "No. It's my fault. I underestimated them and then froze when Ebony needed me the most. You aren't responsible." He touched his hand to the pokéball. The last thing she heard before he vanished was a sorrow-filled cry. Pokéball now in her belt pouch, she sighed. Mally was a liar. Had to be. There was no way Team Rocket could be like this. None. Still... Her morality would never let her work for such horrid people. When she returned home, she vowed to study every mission she'd ever done. She needed to make a choice, and quickly. Even if it meant she lost everything and everyone, she would do the right thing.
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5. A Shocking Good Time
Shadow Skill: Jump-Start. Sends an overcharged jolt of electricity into whatever it touches at the moment. Do not approach if you or your family have a history of heart problems. To prevent an overbuild of electrical energy, Raichu regularly discharge electricity into the ground from their tail. Shadows, however, have lost that ability, and so sporadically shock themselves or who/whatever is around them. After she fled Ally's, Angel ran until she couldn't anymore. She wound up half a mile outside the city, and when she spotted a bench nearby, she headed toward it. When she arrived, she collapsed onto it and let the tears fall. Petunia tried to soothe her, even though she knew he was upset, too. Which honestly made her feel bad that she was being selfish and putting her pain first. But when both parties were in this much pain, the only thing that could be done was just silence together. Eventually, they fell asleep. When she opened her eyes, it was early morning, and she could feel Petunia against her chest. Heh. Why had he stayed with her when Ally needed him more? Perhaps he understood that Ally needed some time alone to calm down and realize she'd overreacted, so he chose to stay with Angel, a decision she was beyond grateful for. Little things like this made her certain Pokémon were more sentient and aware than most people gave them credit for. Unfortunately, many Trainers treated them as inferiors rather than equals. Or saw them as mere tools and a means to an end. Angel sat up and stretched, and a blanket fell to her waist. The crisp early morning air made her shiver, and as she pulled cottony material around her shoulders, a familiar smell made her pause. She brought a small portion to her nose and inhaled deeply. Yup. Poochyena. Her gaze drifted back toward the city, where she half hoped to see Officer Jenny in the distance. But by the chill of the material, she knew whoever had placed it upon their sleeping forms was long gone. As she watched the sunrise, she tried to accept everything. But it was all just too much, too fast. Without proper time to adjust, she would likely cave in on herself. It had happened before. The only thing she could hope for right now was that her breakdown didn't happen at the wrong time. Oh, how she wished she'd brought Sylvie along. Or, at the very least, her Sprigatito plushie. Never had she been alone in this type of situation. Granted, she currently had three Pokémon with her. But their companionship had never been as calming as flinging herself at her father and crying into his chest until she fell asleep to his heartbeat. Or being entangled in Sylvie's ribbons. Her intense anxiety was the biggest reason why she hadn't gone on her Journey yet. She'd hoped to one day overcome her fear, but more and more, it was looking like an impossible task. Perhaps she should face the music and go for it. Maybe an adventure would be the answer she'd sought all along. Her fingers brushed against one of Petunia's flowers, which caused him to awaken. He stretched so adorably before he sat up and leaned into her for warmth. For a while, neither of them said anything. Once the gorgeous shades and hues of the sunrise had settled off, Petunia broke the silence with a single word. One that managed to crush her heart. "Home?" She reached into her pocket and pulled out his shrunken pokéball. "I'm sure Ally doesn't want to see me yet. She's probably really worried about you, though." Angel placed the pokéball in his left hand. "Friends?" Angel had to hold back a sob at the desperation in his voice. "Ally's really mad at me right now because she thinks I did something bad, but I know she'll realize I was telling the truth with time. I hope she still considers me a friend once she calms down. But she might not for a long while. People in her state of mind need someone to blame for what happened. It is easier to do that than deal with the real issues. Without knowing the facts, she can only blame me, the one all evidence points to. But us?" She reached out a finger to boop his nose. "We're still friends." "Soon?" Petunia scooted off the bench, then turned to look at her. "Again, that's up to her. Not right now, but when she's much calmer, you tell her I'm not mad at her. I'm still her friend and will be there when she needs me. She knows how to reach me. As soon as she does, I'll drop everything and come visit." Angel paused and debated as to whether she should say more. Instead, she gave Petunia a gentle shove back toward the city to encourage him to leave. "Go on, now." He turned away from her and took a few steps before he paused and looked over his shoulder. Petunia said, 'Love is forever,' before he headed back home. She didn't respond to his last statement because she knew the heartbreaking truth. Love didn't always last forever. It took both people hard at work, determined to keep the bond. And even then, it didn't always work out for whatever reasons. That was one reason why she preferred the company of Pokémon over humans. They were among the most loyal and accepting of anyone or anything. Yet, they still had limits and would completely turn their back on you if you gave them enough reason. Jenny, Ally, and Maya were the only people she liked being around. And her family, of course, even though they drove her crazy. Maya. Her heart ached again. It never failed that every time she began to feel content or braver, something shattered her and set her back months of progress. Going back and forth between a figurative Silcoon and Beautifly was starting to wear thin on her. She wished she had the mental maturity to move on. Angel knew it was detrimental to her to constantly let things she'd already moved past affect her. But the fact life kept throwing stuff at her had to mean she was still doing something wrong. It was the analyzation of why she kept getting the short end of the stick that kept her mind in the past. In hindsight, many of her problems over the years were self-inflicted, but still. One should never have to suffer so much for their mistakes. Her hands clenched on her legs. Why did she always do this? She had everything she could ever want. Her life was practically perfect. Why was she always so unhappy and cynical? Always expecting everyone to hurt, use, betray, or abandon her? Footsteps sounded, and Angel looked up to see two people headed her way. They paused a couple of feet from the bench and began to argue loud enough for her to hear what they were on about. "I'm tellin' ya! I saws what I saws! It honestly hurts tat you think your grandpa is a crazy ol' man." The older man gestured strongly with his hands, but the younger female just shook her head and sighed in frustration. "I never said you were crazy, and I don't doubt you saw it. But I do doubt it exists." From this angle, Angel could barely make out the woman's face, but it was clear that she did think her grandfather was crazy. He sighed, frustrated, and threw his hands in the air, clearly exasperated. "I ain't stupid eithers. That means you think it exists only in my head!" Angel stood, but before she headed toward the couple, she folded the blanket on the bench for the next traveler to use if they so chose. She spoke once in polite conversation distance but still far enough away to have not taken the pair by surprise. "Excuse me?" Even so, they jumped as if she'd appeared out of thin air. "May I ask what exactly you're discussing?" The man glared at her. "Why? So ya can make fun of me toos? It's all the same with ya whippersnappers. We're suppos ta believe everythin' ya says without hesitation, but ya won't bother returnin' the favah." She waved her hands defensively in front of her. "No, no! I've seen many things that most people would say are impossible. I'd love to learn more. And see where it happened, if possible." His eyes lit up like holiday lights, unaware of his granddaughter frantically motioning from behind him for Angel not to encourage him. The act elicited a smile from Angel, which caused the man to turn around. But his granddaughter was now completely innocent, hands behind the small of her back, a smile on her face. She batted her eyes at him twice before she stretched out a hand to Angel. "I'm Mally. This eccentric fellow is my grandpa, Iggy." After she stared at it for a few seconds, Angel took the hand offered her, but she hesitated before she spoke. "Name's Alexandria. I'm on my way to Saffron City but will gladly take a detour to see what your grandfather is so excited about." She wasn't entirely sure if it was her paranoid imagination or if they really had a very small reaction to her name. Either way, her heart had begun to beat rapidly. And with zero ability to read any form of social cue, she was certain this would end badly. To hide her uneasiness, she brushed a lock of hair out of her face as an excuse to wipe the sweat from her brow. "Are ya sures? It would be a bit outta ya way. And ya might not sees anythin'." Angel looked to the older man, who still had a hopeful and expectant demeanor. He seemed eager to prove to his granddaughter that he was not crazy. "Honestly. It's not a problem at all." She followed Iggy and Mally as they headed back towards the city. Five minutes later, they paused at a pair of trees. At first, Angel couldn't see anything that marked the area as special. On her third look, she noticed the lack of branches within a two-foot space. Ah. It was a little-known path into the forest. Confirmed seconds later by Iggy. "Not many people know this here path. I only dos cause I used'ta be the Ranger around these parts. Ya wouldn't think much of it, but a lotta poachin' goes on. Mostly by those mangy teams. What're their names again, dearie?" "Magma, Aqua, Flare, Galactic, Plasma, Skull. There are so many of them." Mally spoke the names as if by rote. "But it's not just them. Many individuals do it as well. There are a lot of Pokémon who have at least one quality that makes them sought after. It's to the point that some of them are being placed upon a Protection list." "Now, I don't wanna go down there again. Seems a few Pokémon don't understands why I stopped comin' to see thems, and they're mads at me." "So...Did you see the Pokémon in person or not?" Angel winced slightly as her question came out slightly ruder than she intended. "Nuh-uh." Iggy shook his head. Either he hadn't taken offense to it or hadn't noticed, with the latter the more likely of the two. "I saw it on one of the cameras I installed. But when I went to show Mally proof of it the next day, it was already gones." "The Pokémon or the video?" "Both. I think whoever's been poachin' lately had somethin' to dos with it. But Mally believes I'm seein' things. Even thoughs she can't explain why two minutes are missin' from the log." "Well!" Angel stretched her arms above her head and bent from side to side once. "One way or another," she bent her arms, elbows out, fists at chest, twisted right, then left. "We'll know the truth soon." He frowned. "Just 'cause ya can't see somethin' don't mean it don't exists. Just means ya weren't lucky. Ya know...Like with all them Legendaries and the super rare Pokémons." "Oh, don't you worry. Pokémon love me. I can practically guarantee I'll have the proof you seek." Angel didn't wait for a response and immediately began the trek down the path into the forest. Within minutes, she was far down the path away from any quick source of help. Well, except for Dreamer and Ebony, that is. Since she hadn't expected to fight other Pokémon or people—not that she'd do the latter unless absolutely necessary—the two were the only Pokémon she'd brought. So, hopefully, they could handle whatever creature Iggy had seen. If he'd seen anything. Despite how much she had witnessed and knew was possible, her father's memory failed him on occasion. And that was saying something because he wasn't quite as old as Mally's grandfather. Eventually, it led into a clearing, where she paused and looked around. After a minute or so, just as she was about to head back, she heard a noise, and her hand instantly went to her belt to open Dreamer's pokéball. But when she heard the sound again, she picked up on agony in the voice. Whatever Pokémon it was, it was obviously in pain. Quietly, she called out. "Hello?" Though her words were gentle, the Pokémon screamed again. Angel looked around but didn't see anymon in the clearing. "Hello?" This time, she whispered and heard a somewhat pained response. "Can you come out? I won't hurt you." After a minute or so, a Clefable stepped out from one of the bushes. But it was unlike any she'd seen before. At first glance, it looked normal, but a closer inspection revealed a purplish tinge to its color, and a shadowy aura of the same color surrounded its form. It took a few steps, stumbled to the ground, and screeched again. Tears filled her eyes as she watched it just lay there, hopeless and helpless, obviously in agony, as it tried to cover its ears with its hands. She rushed to its side and helped it sit up. For a while, the only thing she did was hold it and listen to it breathe as it tried to relax. Finally, she couldn't be silent any longer. In a voice even softer than before, she spoke. "What's wrong?" It chose to remain silent for a while. When it finally spoke, it revealed that, he apparently, had no clue how he came to be here. The only thing he remembered was people sticking him with needles who ran tests on him day in and day out. All the while, he was in a circular enclosure of some sort that was filled with liquid. People were always around him, and they always spoke loudly. They even tapped on the glass, which drove him crazy. He never got the chance to sleep, for they woke him up each time he was almost at that point. But what stood out to her the most was the mention of the red "R" on the door, uniforms, and everything. For now, she ignored the mention of Team Rocket and instead changed the topic. "This...aura about you...Were you like that before? Or did this happen during?" His response was a confused sound, which led Angel to believe he had always been that way. After all, when something is the only thing you've ever known or experienced, to imagine anything to the contrary would be beyond comprehension. He said he had been in a testing tube his whole time there, so it was unlikely he saw any normal Pokémon. Suddenly, he leaped up and ran off into a nearby bush. Angel almost called out to him, but footsteps caught her attention, and she turned back to the clearing entrance to see Mally approach. Her grandfather wasn't with her. She began to lift a finger to inform her to lower her tone, but Mally had already begun to speak. And what she said was quite a shocker. "Well, there you are! I was beginning to think you recognized us and decided to snag the Shadow for yourself." "Recognized you? How do you know about Shadows?" Mally brought her hand to her mouth as she laughed. "Oh my. You mean to tell me you haven't been fully informed of this mission?" "Lady, I don't even know who you are nor what possible acquaintanceship the two of us share." "You're really out of the loop then. Let me make it clear as crystal for you. Both of us," she motioned her pointer finger to herself and then to Angel, "are Agents of Team Rocket. Giovanni sent me on a mission to retrieve a Shadow. I assumed you'd been sent on the same mission when I saw you. Course. I wasn't sure it was you until you said your name." Ah. So, she hadn't imagined the reaction earlier. "You're lying. Giovanni came to me in person to recruit me for a very important task in Saffron City. My job has nothing to do with a...Shadow, you said?" "Good. Then I shall finally get the promotion I've deserved for so long. As for you? I believe I speak for all Agents when I say that your sudden disappearance would be quite beneficial." "Say what now?!" Angel stood, the pokéballs for Dreamer and Ebony ready in her hands. "You heard me, grunt. The beloved pet of Giovanni. Hated by all other Agents due to the courtesies given you. Allowed so much because your skill is such an 'asset'. How do you manage to act so goody two shoes all the time?" Angel laughed at that. "You're not a member of Team Rocket. Giovanni would never have hired someone with your lack of manners and disregard for life." "Oh. Em. Gee." Mally burst out in hysterical laughter. "It's not an act? You truly think Team Rocket are good guys? Darling, we're as bad as you can get. Haven't you ever wondered why you never met another Agent? Never been to our facilities? The rewording of your missions so you feel you are doing the right thing. Everything to ensure that the mission gets done, and you end up none the wiser. Well. It's time you knew the truth." "The truth? You just told me you wanted me out of the way. Why should I believe anything you say when it could be nothing more than a means to an end?!" "Girl, don't you dare lie to me! To me! I can see it in your eyes. You're having doubts. Tell you what. If you give me that rare Sableye, I'll let you go. I'll tell Giovanni that you failed miserably and aren't worth his time." "And if I were to tell him you spilled the beans on what Team Rocket is truly about? Don't you think Giovanni would be immensely teed off? You'd be "taken care of", just as you plan to do to me." "You're right." Mally feigned shock and worry before she smiled and reached for a pokéball that hung from the strap under her left chest pocket. "I shouldn't leave you capable of telling the tale." "Cover your ears!" the Clefable yelled from behind her. With precious little time to react, Angel covered her ears just as a screech to rival all screeches filled the clearing. She and Mally fell to their knees in pain. Their eyes met, and she knew they would forever be nemesi. After ten seconds, Mally struggled to her feet. Still disoriented, she staggered to the edge of the clearing and then paused. She wobbled, stretched out her hand to balance herself against a tree, and turned back to face Angel. Mally held out her other hand, revealing a shrunken pokéball. "You may have the Shadow, but I have your Sableye!" A glance around where she'd fallen showed Dreamer's pokéball beside a rock. Geometry agreed that if a pokéball hit the rock at the right angle, it would have been sent Mally's way. By the time Angel turned back towards the path, the woman was already hidden by the darkness of the trees as she made her way back up. Frozen with the shock of what had just happened, Angel didn't chase after Mally. Instead, tears fell from her eyes as she repeated the word 'no' repeatedly. Eventually, she had the strength of will to move, but she still didn't give chase. Mostly because she knew that the pair were likely long gone by now. So, she beat her fist against the ground until the side of her hand began to bleed. All the while, she sobbed, so hysterical she could barely breathe. The Clefable came up beside her and offered assurances. The thought crossed her mind that if he hadn't screeched, Ebony would still be here. It made her hate him. Yet, deep down, she knew that she would have lost Ebony one way or another. At least, this way, she was still alive. She couldn't tell how much time had passed in the forest with her just sitting there. But after a while, she spoke as softly as possible as she tried to make her hoarse voice audible. "My father is a genius. I believe he can help you with your hearing problem. If you're willing, you can come along with me." He made an unintelligible sound as she brought out a pokéball and shook his head. Angel frowned, uncertain if he'd spoken gibberish at that moment or if she was so out of it she couldn't communicate as well as usual. When his eyes drifted to the pokéball, the realization hit her. "I'm sorry. But it would be best if you went in there. I know you might not like enclosed spaces right now. My main concern is you being seen. I can't protect you. So, if another Team or those two show up again, they'll take you. And you'll be back in a tube." His head shook furiously, clearly not a fan of the idea. "You're going to have to choose. Which would you prefer? Pain until you can no longer take it? Or a few days in a pokéball while I get you the needed help?" It took him a while to respond, but she breathed a sigh of relief when he did. "I know you're putting a lot of faith and trust in me. You won't regret it." He made a sound as she enlarged the pokéball, and his words caused her to shake her head. "No. It's my fault. I underestimated them and then froze when Ebony needed me the most. You aren't responsible." He touched his hand to the pokéball. The last thing she heard before he vanished was a sorrow-filled cry. Pokéball now in her belt pouch, she sighed. Mally was a liar. Had to be. There was no way Team Rocket could be like this. None. Still... Her morality would never let her work for such horrid people. When she returned home, she vowed to study every mission she'd ever done. She needed to make a choice, and quickly. Even if it meant she lost everything and everyone, she would do the right thing.
SakuraWolf23's AvatarSakuraWolf23
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6. A Race Against Time
Shadow Skill: Mock. A laughing whinny that brings to the forefront of the mind, a person's shortcomings in order to make them utterly lose faith in themselves and their abilities. Rapidash can go from 0 to 150 in ten steps. They are a sight to behold when they race, for the faster they go, the hotter their mane burns. Highly competitive, they can often be seen challenging others to races. Shadows seem to desire a win, and will play dirty to achieve it. Angel opened her eyes to a bright light directly in her face, followed by the voice of someone who demanded to know who she was and why she was in their stables. The person didn't lower the beam even when she raised a hand to shield her eyes. They yelled the question again, and she knew she must devise something quickly to prevent this from becoming a public scene. "I'm so sorry! I brought an injured Pokémon here to rest." She looked around the area of the stables that she could see, then turned back to the owner. "It looks like she wandered off when I fell asleep." After several seconds, they lowered the light, and Angel blinked her eyes repeatedly as if that would help get her vision back faster. Their flashlight usage finally connected to the reality that it was nighttime, and she swore softly under her breath. She stood and gave a small curtsy. "Excuse me. I'm late for an important meeting!" Angel ran towards the man, who surprisingly moved out of the way to let her pass. Thoughts rushed rapidly through her mind as she paused long enough to get her bearings before she headed toward the target. As she maneuvered her way through the obstacle course of a city, she heard a loud neigh. Instantly, she went into panic mode, wondering if the stable's owner had decided to punish her for trespassing after all. But a glance behind her made her stop in her tracks. A Rapidash ran by her so fast that the force of the backwind knocked her to her bottom. She cried out as she hit the ground hard and then heard a sound like car tires as they screeched to a halt. The absence of hooves let her know before she turned around that the Rapidash had stopped. Well. Either that or was far enough away to no longer be heard. Wait. Was the purple aura she'd just seen in her imagination? Or had she found a third Shadow on the same day? When she turned around, the Rapidash was no longer in sight. Angel stared at where she last knew the horse to be, only to cry out and spin around when she felt warm air on her face. How had the horse gotten behind her so fast? Rapidash nickered, backed off a little, and then pranced in place. The way it did so reminded her of a scene from a movie she'd once watched called The Emperor's New Groove. "You...Want to race?" It gave a loud whinny and reared. Its front feet danced in midair, which allowed Angel to see that it was female. Even though Rapidash seemed aware of how squishy her new friend was, Angel still scooted back a foot with the understanding that it was better to be safe than sorry. Rapidash then hopped beside her in such a way that reminded her of Pinkie Pie from that one children's cartoon, and she couldn't help but burst out in laughter. The Rapidash stopped her dance to look at Angel strangely as if she were confused by the words. But she shook her head as she got to her feet. "You wouldn't understand." She looked to the ground to ensure nothing had fallen out of her backpack and readied herself for the race. "On the count of three. One. Two—" With another whinny, Rapidash sped off. Angel managed not to cough at the dust cloud that was left behind. "Oh-oh. So that's how you want to play, is it?" Even had Rapidash played fair, Angel knew she wouldn't have won anyway. But at that moment, it didn't really matter to her. She chose to enjoy the moment and ran after the Shadow. After a few minutes, they halted across the street from the Silph Company. Her body tried to go limp on her, and she had to place a hand on the wall of the house beside her to steady herself. She'd pushed herself harder than expected with that run. But Arceus, did she feel so much better. Though only temporary, the burning sensation in her legs and lungs gave her a different kind of pain to focus on. Beside her, the Rapidash strutted back and forth as if her win was the most spectacular thing in the world. Her fiery flames had settled down to a muted orange, tinged with purple. Angel chuckled softly and reached out a hand to stroke Rapidash's snout. "You did good, girl." Her attention turned to the building as she tried to devise a last-minute plan to finish what she had come for. An idea suddenly came to her, and she looked to Rapidash as she considered the possible consequences. It was a dangerous choice to put your trust in a complete unknown. There were so many ways things could go wrong, especially when you knew little to nothing about the person you had to trust. She made a sound that sounded half growl, half sigh. There was simply no other choice. "Hey. Would you mind doing me a favor?" Rapidash let out a questioning neigh, and her ears perked up. Angel didn't respond immediately as she went over it all in her head one last time just in case a different path was available. But nothing came to her. It was time to go all in. "There is something inside the building that I need to fetch. If it's not too much to ask...Could you possibly provide a distraction for me?" Before she could even discuss the possibility of a reward, Rapidash rushed to the building and began to wreak havoc. It didn't take long for the night shift to chase after her. It wasn't until the last of the employees had gone around the side of the building that Angel ran towards the door. She cursed instantly as she opened it. For there, in the middle of the room, was a desk. And, at the desk, sat a man. He was on the phone with someone when he saw her. His face immediately went from laughter to shock. He was too far away for her to hear his words, but she knew he'd most likely said something about how he had to go take care of a problem. Despite her curiosity, she knew it was foolish to stick around and see what he did next, so she bolted for the stairs. She easily remembered the blueprints for the building and ran effortlessly through the corridors as she climbed floor after floor. As she ran, she couldn't help but question why nobody was in the building. Yeah, it was night, but there should have been a guard on each floor, what with all the fancy tech stuff they did. Five minutes later, she reached the doorway she sought and placed her hand against the metal to brace herself as she attempted to catch her breath. How had she run so far, so soon after the race with the Rapidash? For the last few years, her body had been giving out on her more and more. It shouldn't happen to someone who regularly walked, ate healthy, and all that good stuff. Some of the doctors blamed it on her being slightly overweight. Slightly. But she knew many people about 15 pounds over normal weight who didn't experience these issues. Arceus forbid she bring that up, though. She could hear her heartbeat in her ears and feel each beat as it pounded in her chest. No matter how quickly she inhaled, she couldn't fill her lungs. Sweat covered her face, and she felt like her entire body was on fire. Every muscle trembled, which made her scared that she would fall at any moment, for she knew if she did collapse, she wouldn't be able to get back up. Her nausea was the worst it had ever been during one of these episodes. Angel closed her eyes and used the trick her father had taught her to try and relieve her nausea, which was to convince herself that there was nothing wrong. Surprisingly, it worked, as she'd never purged if she didn't wish it. A soft whimper escaped her lips. Whatever was wrong with her was getting worse. Kanto was the closest to Blossomly, and her parents had already tried every doctor they could. The next step was to travel to other Regions and seek help there. But her father did not want to leave the gym and island alone to go as a family. Nor leave his wife and son behind unprotected to get medical help for her. He liked to say that she was an adult and should be doing things on her own anyway. None of her pleading had worked. Angel had even tried to convince him that the Pokémon, though wild, would gladly protect them. Yet he was firm in that it was a risk he wouldn't take, so she was made to suffer for it. Part of her felt he was right, though. She shouldn't ask to put her own family in danger when she was too scared to get help herself. Perhaps, now that she was on her own Journey, she would eventually make it to another Region where she could get the help she needed. Finally, her symptoms lessened enough to return focus to her mission, and she stepped back to look at the door. A sign claimed a Bio Lab was beyond this point and warned people not to enter unless they wore a hazmat suit. This was where she needed to be. Angel recalled that the dossier had said the sign was fake and only there to deter those curious folk without clearance, which was entirely foolish, in her opinion. Signs like this only served to further pique one's curiosity. She didn't bother to check for people in the area. Instead, she moved her right hand to the keypad and entered the only code she could remember from the papers. Angel then crossed her fingers that it would work. If it didn't, it meant she'd been too late, and the codes had been cycled. Honestly, she was surprised they weren't as soon as she was caught inside. Then again, the odds of them being able to disarm to change them that quickly was low. Once the background changed to green, she placed a hand on the door, which slid open. Rapidash's evasive maneuvers had likely begun to frustrate the guards, so they should return very soon. Angel quickly scanned the room for the item she'd been sent to obtain. A shipment must have arrived recently, for the room looked different than the blueprints. Either that or her mind had imposed the layout of a different room onto this one. A likely possibility since Giovanni hadn't limited the data to this section just so she could plan various routes of entry and escape. Shouldn't be a problem, though. After all. How many containers that glowed pink could there possibly be in the world? After a minute, she finally found the soft pink glow and rushed to the area. She dropped her backpack from her shoulders, opened it, and gently stuffed as many vials into the outer pouch as possible. Angel managed to get six in the pouches and two more inside, but still, three remained. Based on the shouts she could hear in the distance, she knew there was no time to rearrange. With the hope that it wouldn't matter much, she left the last three vials in the container and ran to the window. Angel dug through her backpack until she found the canister she'd nicked from her father's workshop. She then put her backpack back on and opened the window before she placed two fingers into her mouth and let out a loud, piercing whistle. Within seconds, the Rapidash appeared. As soon as it was close enough, Angel leaped out of the window. Both hands in the middle of the canister, she held it above her head and spoke the activation word. Unprepared, she grunted as her arms were almost ripped from their sockets from the makeshift wing glider. Seconds later, she was atop the Rapidash. Another quick command made the glider return to its canister form. Just as she was about to turn the Rapidash around and gallop away, a voice called out to her. Again, the familiarity of it made her heart stop. This time, though, she couldn't prevent herself from turning to face it. And when she did so, she found herself unable to breathe. A Houndoom's bark distracted her, and nobody was there when she glanced back at the window. Angel shook her head to remind herself yet again that not only was there no way it could be her. That her mind played tricks on her in a desperate attempt to believe she was dead. Yet, why would her mind place her as a member of Team Rocket? Maya had made it clear that she, like most people, hated them. But now was not the time to focus on such questions. She had no clue where to go next or what she planned on doing now. The only thing she knew for certain was that she needed to put as much distance between herself and this town as possible. And so, they ran. They ran so far away.
SakuraWolf23's AvatarSakuraWolf23
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7. The Journey Beckons
Once they'd covered half the distance from Saffron City to Lavender Town, Angel reined Rapidash. She attempted to hop off as normal, but her legs gave out and fell to the ground. It seemed the adrenalin rush was no more now that they were in relative safety. Angel couldn't even muster the energy to move onto her back. Instead, she lay on her right side, eyes focused on the small part of the starry sky she could see. The fact that she could even still breathe astonished her. This was the most useless her body had ever been. Rapidash knelt beside her, and it was clear from her whinnies that she was excited at how far and fast she'd just run. For twenty minutes, they lay like that. Angel knew the moment her body had recuperated enough from its trial, for her mind was able to focus on something other than the pain. It went to the person in the window, who looked and sounded just like Maya. She hadn't seen the person who spoke to her about the Raichu, and she knew that two people in the same town who sounded like someone from another town was highly unlikely. But she also knew that it could be her mind refused to accept Maya's passing. She did not want to dwell on those thoughts, so her mind turned to Ebony. But she couldn't think of anything that would change what happened. Angel had no clue where Mally or Iggy were or the locations of any of the Team Rocket bases. There was no way she could get her beloved Pokémon back. A fact she would have to learn to accept. A beep sounded, and she dug into her satchel to bring out her Pokénav. It was Elsa, but she couldn't talk. Not now. She squeezed her eyes shut and hoped her lack of desire to speak at the moment didn't destroy the friendship before it began. After a few more seconds, the beeping stopped. The Pokénav was silent for about a minute longer, and then a text came in: Hey, there! If you're still around, I'd love it if you could come to the Galar section. Lyla and I are getting ready to make our big premiere, and we'd love it if you could be here. Oh! I just realized that I didn't get your name. A part of her wanted to reply, but her hands shook too badly to even attempt to type a response. Maya's death. Ally's abandonment. Jenny's not-quite-betrayal. The Clefable. Seeing Maya. The Raichu and Rapidash. Hearing Maya. There was just so much, and it kept piling on. She almost returned the Pokénav to her satchel but, at the last minute, decided to call her father on the secure line. After a few rings, he picked it up. "Where are you? We've been worried sick ever since we discovered that you left Blossomly. Why would you do that without telling us? Especially with your recent condition?" Angel took a deep breath and dove straight into everything from the last few days. Well. Without mentioning her association with Team Rocket, that is. After she finished, her dad was silent for a long while. "You chose a perfect time for your Journey. Reports of these Pokémon are popping up all over. I want to investigate and help them, if possible. Perhaps even see if I can make them normal again. When you reach Lavender Town, could you send those three to me? I will do what I can and then return them to you." "How often should I send them to you?" "To keep them out of evil hands, I'd say once a week or as soon as you have three on you. Carrying more would be risking them and yourself. And Alexandria? I know you're twenty-three, but you're exploring the world for the first time. Things and people aren't always what they seem. Be very careful who you trust and let in on your secrets." Secrets? Did he know about her affiliation with Team Rocket? Angel swallowed before responding. "Pfft. You know me. I'm always careful." "Uh-huh. So, you're saying the situations you find yourself in are Dreamer's fault?" She laughed at his jibe to her Absol and sniped back, "Nope. The blame falls all on Sylvie. He always gets me involved in some form of mischief." "I knew it! I never liked those ribbons. " "That's just cause you never spend time with him. Oh! I know! He's been wanting to go into one of those beauty things. Perhaps you could get to know him better while training him to use his ribbons wowtacularly." Her father groaned. "What is it with you and your weird words?" Though he couldn't see it, she shrugged. "I have a gift." "Yeah. To be super annoying. Anyways. I must go tend to important work stuff. Make sure to be back no later than two months. Love you. Bye." After she told him she loved him and said goodbye as well, she hung up, a smile on her face. One thing was certain when it came to her dad. No matter how upset she was, he could always make her smile. Sometimes, it was by saying or doing something funny. Other times, he could annoy her into laughter. Rarely, he caused her pain to begin with. Once the Pokénav was back in the pack, she pondered what to do. A glance at the Rapidash said that she was up to travel again, and they had a lot of ground to cover before they reached Lavender Town. Angel stood, and Rapidash not only followed suit but whinnied and pranced around as well. "You can't seriously want to run again? Aren't you exhausted?" She threw her hands up at Rapidash's outraged neigh to calm the mare. "I've seen you run. You don't have to prove yourself to me. It's just...I don't want you to hurt yourself. There's been so much loss in my life recently, and I don't think I could handle being responsible for another." She waited with bated breath as Rapidash pondered the statement. "Blargh!" Angel raised a hand to wipe her face clean from the sudden lick. Grossed out as she was, she couldn't help but smile when Rapidash whinnied as she pranced in a circle once. "Oh, so you think that's funny, do ya?" Again, Rapidash let out a neigh that sounded like laughter. Amusement gone, Rapidash let Angel mount her again, and the two of them continued to Lavender Town, though this time, at a much more leisurely pace, which was still quite fast despite the fact she'd ordered the mare not to go faster than a trot. She couldn't believe the mare was willing to compromise for her sake. After all, she'd done nothing to earn the Pokémon's trust or respect. Half an hour later, they arrived on the outskirts of the town. It was still several hours before people started to get up and go about their day. Angel jumped down and rested her cheek against Rapidash's while she petted her snout. The thought suddenly occurred to her that she had no clue what Rapidash's problem was. Clefable had extremely sensitive hearing, and Raichu couldn't control her electricity. But the only thing Rapidash wanted to do was run. Wait. That was it! If the only thing on her mind was the run, then she might one time run so far, fast, and hard that her body gave out on her. Angel was silent as she tried to figure out the best thing to say to ensure cooperation. Finally, she paused and looked her new friend in the eyes. "I know you want to run, but I can't let you. It's too dangerous." As expected, Rapidash was confused, outraged, and a bit betrayed. Angel spoke quickly to defuse the situation before it blew up. "Remember the lab?" That seemed to hurt more than help. The instant Rapidash jerked her snout out of Angel's hands, she stepped back, and Angel expected the horse to rear and kick her front legs. That was exactly what happened. Unfortunately, she was too close, and a hoof connected to her shoulder, and the force of the blow knocked her to the ground. Despite how dizzy and in pain she was from the fall and the force of the hoof punch, she continued to speak. "You're enjoying your freedom. They're still after you and wish to regain control over you. There would be no more runs like we had tonight. Is that what you want?" Angel breathed a sigh of relief when Rapidash calmed enough to place and leave all four hooves back on the ground. She retrieved a pokéball from her belt and enlarged it. "If you choose to get into this pokéball, I can take you to my father. He'll help you. You might even get a chance or two to compete with him. He's as competitive as you and might even handicap himself to make it more fun. How does that sound?" She could have made it back to Saffron City in the time it took Rapidash to agree. Once again, Angel let out a relieved sigh. The first step was to find the Pokémon Center. She could rest there for the night and transfer the Shadows to her father in the morning. After that, she had all the time in the world to figure out what to do with whatever she'd just stolen from the Silph Company. Thankfully, her backpack mostly prevented others from seeing the pink hue of the vials. The strange glow would attract attention and be very difficult to explain. There was a high chance that any scientist, not just those who worked at the Silph Company, would recognize it and know it shouldn't be in her hands. Angel stared down the path into town, nervous as to whether she would get caught. It took her a few minutes to remind and convince herself that paranoid behavior only made one more conspicuous and that it was in her best interest to walk around as if she had nothing to hide. After a few minutes, she felt she'd steeled herself enough, put on a false smile, and stepped into the city.

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