Shine sat beneath the awning of The Vine, breathing in the air of the rain-slick pavement. Since his stay at the Pokestop, the atmosphere of the town had completely changed. The sky was coal-black, and unlike before, there were barely any humans or Pokemon roaming Dendemille. The streetlamps illuminated the paths ahead, with one of them clicking and flickering in the middle like a strobe. A ghost town, god forbid if there were actually ghost types plaguing Dendemille. Were there any recent hauntings around Kalos, or in the papers?
Shine shook his head. If what Barley said was true, he had to get a move on. Suddenly aware of his surroundings, as well as rumours of the town's dark underbelly, Shine took a deep breath and focused on his abilities. He wouldn't get anywhere if he threw himself blindly into the streets. So, he turned his golden vision on, making the outlines of the buildings a milky white and everything else transparent. Almost everyone and their Pokemon had settled down for the day in their humble abodes. Everyone except for one group a few blocks ahead: white shapes consisting of few stray cats, a human, and a Lucario.
There. Shine had a lead at last. He didn't check to see if it was the Lucario he came to Dendemille for, but it was something at least. And so, Shine stepped out of the canopy and onto the damp cobblestones. His paws tingled, brimming with electrical energy. Then, he ran, sending sparks flying behind him. He weaved through the streets, the various buildings in his way, the parked cars, the occasional bystander he had to avoid shocking, and finally, the alleyway that lead to the group. As Shine entered the alley, however, a strange smell invaded his nostrils: the familiar stench of iron. His heart sank, and the rocky sensation in his stomach rushed back to him. Wearily, he padded through the walled path, scouting for the source of the smell. And there it was.
A Rattata lay motionless on the floor. There were scratch marks over the rest of its body, but the most noticeable feature was its...
Shine turned away, suppressing the urge to vomit. This didn't make sense: he was a feline Pokemon, so the sight shouldn't have been such a shock to him. It certainly wasn't in his own stray days before he met Tony. So, why now?
Familiar images flashed in his head, of the eye and the arm. No, not now, not here. He couldn't afford to have yet another episode. Yet, he'd never forget that taste, that smell, and that crushing feeling of despair that came with both of those memories. Yet they were also so far away. He couldn't understand it. What did he understand about himself anyway? Yet again, he was usele-
A scream echoed through the air. A human scream, followed by mewling and a sympathetic cry from another Pokemon. Before he knew what he was doing, Shine sprang forward, running out of the alleyway and into the fray. He didn't know why, but somehow, he knew he had to step in to help.
Before him was a trainer, sprawled out on the ground with a gash in her leg. Her Lucario stood in front of her, shooting aura spheres from his paws at a group of attacking cats. He lacked the metal arm Curio had. The Claws sprang from side to side, dodging every projectile, while the Lucario's attacks were beginning to take a toll on his stamina as he panted. But he worked as a suitable distraction. The Claws were so focused on the duo that they didn't even pay attention to Shine.
Shine could've run away and avoided this trouble, since the two were basically strangers. Either because of the Lucario connection, or because of seeing those in need of help before him, Shine's resolve was clear. That's when he pounced forward, swiping at one of the Meowth with a charged set of claws. It hit, knocking them to the floor as they convulsed with electric energy.
There were four other Claws left, all of which hissed when they finally noticed Shine. One Glameow lunged forward with a set of Fury Swipes, and Shine leapt back, dodging it. But the other three ran towards him, all sinking their teeth into his flesh. He yelped as they tore into him, but that wouldn't last long. His electric field was only strengthened by the wet ground beneath him. So, he took a deep breath. He needed to focus. And as soon as he got past the immediate pain of the other Claws, he discharged all of his energy, shocking the remaining opponents. Yet the other Glameow was left. Shine bared his teeth, preparing for another bout, when the Lucario joined him, aura at the ready.
The Glameow only sneered and turned her back on them. "Nyeh, you'll pay fer dis."
With that, she ran away, leaving the other fainted Claws behind. A moment passed as the Luxray and Lucario looked at each other, trying to process what had happened. Before they could take a breather, however, the fallen trainer groaned, struggling to get on her feet. The wound was still fresh. The Lucario's cool demeanor vanished, replaced with a newfound sense of worry as he tended to his trainer.
"Oh, oh g-g-god," the Lucario said. "P-please tell me you're alright, oh dear, it's all my fault, it's all my faul-"
"H-hey," the trainer said with a smile, "it's fine, it's not as bad as it looks." She sat up and pointed to her bag. Its belongings were strewn about on the floor, and the strap was broken, but she still had it with her. "Can you be a dear and get the first aid kit out, please?"
The Lucario nodded, paws shaking nervously as he picked up the trainer's stuff. She turned to Shine next.
"Well, I dunno where your trainer is, but thanks a ton. You really helped us out there."
Shine shook his head. "I couldn't just stand and do nothing."
Her eyes widened for a brief moment before returning to their usual size. "Huh, I must be extra lucky toda—" She cut herself off, wincing as her Lucario rubbed the curative paste on her wound. This struck Shine as rather curious, though he imagined it would've been common sense to have a Pokemon that knew first aid around. Instead of questioning it, he looked with his golden vision for any more signs of the Claws. There were none. At least, not at a close distance.
"Isn't there a centre nearby?" Shine said. "They can treat your wounds."
"Yeah," the trainer said, trying to suppress the pain. "I need to walk back, though, and if those Pokemon nab me while I'm out, I'm toast. This'll just make the trip easier."
She gave one last wince before the Lucario stepped back, his paws still shaking. He managed to completely tie the bandage. For that, the trainer called him closer and gently scratched his chin.
"You did a great job." She placed her hand on his shoulder. "Help me up a sec."
The Lucario got her up to her feet and supported her as she applied weight to her wounded leg. She gasped and fell back in her Pokemon's arms.
"Will you be alright?" Shine asked.
"Er, actually, we could use some help getting back to town, just so we don't get caught out again."
Shine winced and looked behind him. There was still the possibility Curio was out there, wherever he was. He didn't want to delay it any further if it meant she was in danger.
"P-p-please?" the Lucario said, pulling off those baby doll eyes. "We, um, can make it worth your while."
There was something he had in mind for that Lucario in particular. If he was able to use his aura to scout out different Pokemon from far distances, something he couldn't do himself with his own vision, then there was a snowball's chance he'd be able to find Curio. So, Shine sighed and joined the two.
"Alright, I'll help you."
The two smiled before making their way down the downtrodden streets of Dendemille. The atmosphere grew thicker, since Shine had found out first hand why the Claws were so dreaded. The streetlights rapidly clicked each time Shine walked past them, which occasionally startled the poor accompanying Lucario, but aside from that, their journey to the Pokemon centre flew by. A bit too quickly, if Shine was honest with himself. There was barely anybody that crossed paths with them. One look told him with his golden vision that everyone was hiding inside. No matter. Once they were greeted by the dim red sign of the Pokemon centre, their hearts were more at ease. The trainer sighed and limped over to a nearby bench outside with her Lucario accompanying her. They looked to Shine with an appreciative smile.
"You're a star," the trainer said, "seriously, we owe you a lot. I oughta-" As soon as she patted her trouser pocket, her brow furrowed. She sat up as much as her good leg could support her and sifted through all of her pockets and belongings until coming to one conclusion.
"Crap, they took my wallet."
The two Pokemon let out a cry of 'what?!' in their respective tongues.
"Nah, it's fine," the trainer said with a laugh.
"You seem awfully relaxed about it," Shine said.
"Well, the money's not the problem here if I can just get a new card." She crossed her arms. "It's got my trainer ID and lots of other stuff though, so without that, I'm kinda screwed."
"W-w-what are we gonna do?" The Lucario said, tugging at his aura sensors. "We-we can't-"
"Hey, it's alright." The trainer wrapped her arm around him, stroking the side of his neck. "We'll dig our way out of this hole somehow." She pursed her lips. "Though it'd be great to know what the heck they'd need cash for anyway. I've never known Pokemon to handle it, if they ever could."
The Lucario seemed satisfied by that answer, though Shine only snorted. He resisted the urge to tell her otherwise and decided to cut to the chase. Perhaps he could've killed two Pidgey with one Rock Throw.
"Listen, there's something I need to ask your Lucario. There's someone important I need to find and his aura might be the key to discovering her whereabouts." To make it less of a one-sided deal, Shine bowed and added: "If I am to go out there again, I could help to find your missing purse as well."
"Wallet, not purse," she corrected, then waved a hand up. "Just kidding, call it what you want. But if you could find it, that would be great." The trainer rose up, supporting herself on a nearby wall leading to the centre, and looked to her Pokemon. "I'll be waiting at the front, so meet me back there. I'll be alright from here on out."
The Lucario looked at her with pleading eyes. He tried to say something, but thought against it, and glanced back at Shine. For a moment, he thought the Lucario would've requested him to relay something in human tongue, but that was cut short when she nodded and entered the Pokemon centre. The two Pokemon were alone.
If there was any wind, a tumbleweed probably would've passed between them. Shine licked at one of the small wounds from his earlier encounter, and then, the actual weight of his actions had sunk in. He didn't hesitate to step in at a time of need, and if he was being honest with himself, that felt good. His present worries were lifted for now, and he felt like a completely different Luxray. Well, almost. The Lucario stared at the spot where his right eye used to be, wincing. Oh no, did he look ugly with that?
"I-I-I'm sorry," the Lucario said, whimpering.
"For what?" Shine said.
"F-f-for what you've been through. I read into your aura." He clenched his fists. "It j-j-just feels s-so hopeless. Like, s-something terrible happened, yet everything about it's been locked away in some v-v-vault, or something. I w-w-wish I could help you with that."
Shine looked to the side, avoiding eye contact. That rocky feeling in his stomach returned.
"O-oh, sorry, I didn't mean to upset you." The Lucario fell back on the bench and cradled his legs. "I-I'm such an idiot, idiot, idiot-"
"Don't say that," Shine said, scowling at him. That only made the Lucario retreat further into his ball of fluff. Perhaps he came across a bit too strongly, but he wasn't mad at him. Then, why the sour reaction? Again, if he was being truthful, he heard more of his own voice in that Lucario than their own, even down to how he used to stutter. So that was why. Dammit, he was the one being the idiot. And yet Curio was still out there somewhere, the one that would help fix this mess. He needed to get back on track without upsetting the poor Lucario any more. So, he joined him on the bench and leaned into his side.
"Listen. You're not an idiot. You reacted very quickly when you applied that first aid, and you helped me chase off the last of those other Pokemon. I'd say you've got a lot to be proud of."
"I-I know, maybe." He tugged at his aura sensors again "I-I'm just not good at t-t-talking to others. Without my t-t-trainer, I don't know how to act." He unfurled from his ball and sighed. "The other P-P-Pokemon in my team make fun of me for that."
That was something Shine could relate to, however subconsciously. Yet again, truthfully, he didn't know what to say to reassure him. He wasn't exactly a grizzled sage himself. What would she have said in this situation? If only he could- oh wait, there was one thing he remembered, however vague it was.
"A good friend told me something, or at least, I believe she was my friend."
"Just a hunch. But she told me to just focus on myself and not worry about what others would think about me."
"R-really? I don't know."
Shine sighed. This was all too familiar to him, which made it all the more frustrating to hear. He didn't have a definitive answer for this, but he had to try anyway.
"Maybe it won't come immediately. You might be still young. But you'll get better at it. Just focus on what you think you're good at."
There was another moment of silence before the Lucario pulled himself together. "O-okay. I guess I might."
"Good," he said with a smile. Now onto the good stuff. "Back to what we said earlier about making it worth my while…"
"Yeah, I know. You want me to tell you about someone, right?"
"Yes. It's another Lucario, except one with a metal arm. I don't know how that would read on your aura, but it might help."
"Y-yeah, okay." The Lucario stood up, pointing to a cluster of trees at the edge of town. There was a hint of orange lighting up the dark greens of the leaves. "Go straight up that path to Route 15, and you'll see her on the outskirts there. I can see she's adding something to something, like she's lighting a fire. It's kind of hard to tell."
"Alright." Shine stood up and faced the path ahead of him.
"And, er, whatever your name is," the Lucario added with a smile, "thank you."
Shine smiled back and sprinted through the path ahead. His heart pumped. His breaths were light. His heavy paws pounded on the pavement and echoed through the streets. That was it. He would've finally found Curio, the Lucario that would lead to him regaining his memories. His life was in motion again, like a stubborn leaf blowing through a gale. As the momentum of his limbs carried him, he saw himself catching up to her any second, even if he couldn't see her with his naked eye. It was tiring. It was fun. It was-
Shine's ears twitched. Multiple sets of paws pounded from the distance behind him. As he ran more and more, it got louder, turning from faint slithers of noise to an assortment of marches sounding in different rhythms. Shine didn't look back, but his heart quickened and he continued running. As Shine finally saw the border that separated the town from the route, he sprang forward and sprinted, but his movements became erratic, no longer going in a straight line. The sounds of the Claws behind him went from marches to stomps as their paws slapped the floor. Shine still focused on his goal, not taking an eye off the gate.
A hot streak of red tore through Shine's leg, staggering him instantly. His face met the concrete. Without thinking, Shine clambered his way forward with his forepaws. He had to keep going, but dammit, why now when he was so powerful before? He only covered a few paces before what felt like hundreds of paws grabbed his body. They spoke amongst themselves, all understanding obscured by a cacophony of dozens of mewling voices, and dragged him into the darkness of the alleyway.
"Right guys, I wanna good look at his mug!"
Shine tried to squirm away, however, many sets of paws pinned him down, only giving him leeway to move his head and swish his tail. He tried to resist otherwise, but ended up getting swept up by the fleshy current. Another set of paws picked him up by his side and flipped him over, giving a full view of the Thousand Claws for him to see. Shine took a deep breath and prepared himself for their big reveal after all this searching.
It wasn't quite a thousand, not even by a quarter, but it was still a lot.
A mix of shadows blended in with one another, all shifting at the sides of the walls. Although he hadn't adjusted to the dark immediately, one thing that stuck out to him was the stench, somewhere halfway between wet fur and rotten eggs. He gagged at that, but swallowed back the bile. As for the shadows, one look with his golden vision revealed all. Various cat Pokemon crowded around the sides, all marked with scars and fur discoloured with garbage and grime, sitting in formation around a Meowth. They looked the most battle scarred out of the group, with three massive orange streaks covering the face save for their eyes, which were two thin irises of bright blue. They sniffed around him, poking their nose in various places on Shine's body, who was still pinned down by the gang before him.
"Say," the Meowth said in a high pitched drawl, "ya smell awfully nice, ya know. Not like us. We can't getta decent place to bathe. We don't even wanna lick ourselves clean, we're that awful. But youze." He coursed his calloused paws through Shine's mane. "Youze is very smooth, and soapy. There's only one type-a Pokemon that smells like that around here, izzat right?"
A few weak mewls came from the stray pack.
"So, where's your trainer, huh? Seems like the kinda fella that has a lot of dough. Tell ya what, why don't you walk us over to him, huh?"
Shine grunted, his leg still throbbing from the open wound. They were interrogating him over how nice he smelled, of all things. Why did Tony have to bathe him beforehand?
"Why does that matter to you?"
To that, the Meowth frowned and swiped a claw across Shine's face.
"Did I say ya could talk back? Hell no, you don't realise who you're messin' with! This is our turf!"
More mewling came from the circle.
"Come on, least you can do is tell us!"
"He's nowhere near this town."
The Meowth tugged on Shine's mane, pulling him closer to the point Shine could smell his decay-ridden breath.
"Whaddya mean, he's nowhere near this town? What're you doin' here then, huh?"
"That means I have nothing to offer you. Now, if you let me go, I have places to be, forget the leg."
"Like I said, that doesn't tell me nuthin'! Don't screw with me like-" The Meowth's eyes widened and he let go of Shine's mane. He held a paw close to his face and muttered to himself before turning to the rest of the pack, who spoke in a chaotic chorus. When he finally turned, the Meowth hissed at Shine, making every other member join him in unison.
"So you're one of them, huh?" The Meowth punched him that time, clocking Shine across his jaw. He groaned as the Meowth pulled him up by his mane again.
"You're the kindsa Pokemon I hate da most, the kindsa Pokemon that act so high and mighty on their own, the kindsa Pokemon that think they can jus' waltz anywhere they like without trouble! Ya wouldn't be nuthin' if it wasn't for your trainer, you're nuthin' but a pet!"
Punch after punch flew across Shine's head. He gritted his teeth, withstanding the blows and trying to find some other way out of the situation. Although he couldn't move his body, his tail was still free, which was enough, and so he wagged it back and forth, charging up the static field around his body. Some of them reacted to it as their fur stuck up, but by then, it was too late.
Shine released his charge, shocking everyone that restrained him, including the Meowth. The rest of the Claws let go, convulsing on the floor, and the Meowth stood, shaking rapidly. Without hesitation, Shine stood up and limped his way out of the alleyway, trying to run. His leg burned from the still open wound, but there was no time to think. He sprang towards the border, gritting his teeth as he focused on reaching Curio, bad leg or not.
The familiar sets of paws stomped behind him. He tried not to turn back as he got closer and closer, and finally, like the Lucario said, plumes of smoke rose up into the night sky.
All at once, the Claws tackled him. A dozen sets of calloused paws smothered his back and dug into the skin. They hissed and growled, tearing new open wounds in various places around Shine's body. With each new cut, he sent screams that echoed into the night. Each attempt at storing up electricity was interrupted with more flashes of pain. They stopped, pinning him down to the ground for their leader to stagger in front of Shine, blocking his view of the border. The Meowth caressed the part of Shine's face where his eye was missing.
"Ya know, I wonder what happened to that eye of yours." If there was any hint of compassion in his voice, that faded away when the leader smiled and pointed a claw at his remaining eye.
"Don't matter. Now you'll have a matching set."
No matter how hard he tried to free himself from his grasp, the other Claws held his head back too, preventing him from even tilting it. With no options left, Shine braced himself for the impact. The moment lasted a few seconds, but it felt like minutes to Shine. There was all the time in the world to think, yet none at the same time. This was happening too fast. He only hoped someone out there would notice him.
A cloud of sugar and sweet tea wafted in the air. One whiff of it distracted him from his fate and brought back memories of the vineyard and all its familiar smells. All of the Claws in front of him turned their heads towards the border, sniffing at the air. One by one, the Claws wandered into the distance in a pack, and the Meowth took a few paces before he turned around with a wide smile on his face.
"Hey, hey, don't forget him, we still gots business with him! Dat smell though..."
He joined the rest of the pack, cackling as he padded over to the source of the pleasant stench. Shine was accounted for as well, as a set of paws lifted him off his feet and slowly carried him. He shivered with all the cuts around his body, and he fell limply into the paws of his captors. His eye flickered open and shut. Everything in his system told him to sleep, but the thoughts of Curio kept him awake.
The rest of the trip continued like this, drifting between alertness and drowsiness, and eventually, Shine closed his eye for a moment and caught a wink of sleep.
"They want us to name ourselves, or somethin'. I came up with one already, so what about you, huh?"
"Nothing yet? You could talk to me if you want help with one."
"Okay, I'm gettin' sick of this silent treatment! If you wanna be that way, fine, but I'm namin' you anyway, something like, like... Shine! You're Shine from here on out! S-H-I-N-E. Got me?"
When he awakened to a glow of orange, there she was, standing in front of the fire. The Lucario with the metal arm. The Lucario that hung out with strangers at night. The Lucario that wrecked the crops in the vineyard. His old friend, Curio.
"How's it going, you bastards?" She presented a bag to the Claws that crowded around her feet. "This is what you've been lookin' for, a bag full of catnip and many other things to stuff your faces with!"
She lowered it for a moment, and raised it back into the air when all the other Claws leaned against her legs, trying to nab their prize.
"What's this? You want it all, huh? Well, I guess I could hand it to you here, buuuuuuut..." She turned to the leader, who drooled in the bag's presence. "I think you have somethin' of mine you need to return first. So how 'bout it?"
The Meowth stared for a moment before slapping himself in the face, pulling him out of his catnip coma. "Yeah, yeah, sure, we ain't had much use for him anyhow. So we'll take the bag now and-"
"Ah, ah, ah, one thing I forgot to mention, there's something else you've gotta do before you earn this." Her cheerful expression dropped. "Take back everythin' else you stole, get outta this town and split up."
"What?" the Meowth exclaimed, pointing a claw towards her. "You're on the freakin' moon if you expect us to do that, this is our town! And what's it to you, you don't care about what we do anyway!"
Curio absent-mindedly picked at her ears, holding the bag close to her. "Well, I guess that's true in a way. I don't care about what you do to get by; every Mon's gotta fill their bellies somehow." She gnashed her sharp teeth. "So far though, you guys have been like pests. And I've seen pests like you that've done less crappy things in the cities, and you know what happens to them?"
"They get exterminated."
At that, the Meowth's eyes widened and the pack took a few paces back to join him.
"You heard me. You don't have a leg to stand on. Why should the police care about what you go through anyway? To them, you're just a bunch of vermin."
"Y-yer wrong, we're-"
"Shut your hole." She scowled at them. "Look, when someone finally gets off their ass here and comes to deal with the situation with all their Growlithe and Arcanine and whatnot, you know what'll happen to you?"
The Meowth stared at her, mouth agape.
"Cat got your tongue? Okay, I'll answer for you. They'll char your bones to dust."
All of the Claws cowered before the leader, and the Meowth turned to the rest of his gang, conversing in shrill mewls. Finally, he commanded them to stand in formation around him, hissing at Curio.
"Ya-ya can't threaten us, who d'ya think you are, ya dumbass! My Claws will tear ya to shreds and-" He gasped as Curio held the bag over the fire.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" Curio said in a mocking tone, leaning closer to the gang as the bag hung over the flames. "I don't play that sort of game. Lay a finger on me or Shine and I'll drop the bag! Just think of it. You'll probably never get this chance again in your miserable lives. And you guys want that taste really badly, right?"
They nodded in unison.
"Then I'll only give you two options. Leave us alone and never come back, or watch all of this burn! So what's it gonna be, huh?"
The Claws stood motionlessly alongside their leader.
"Come on, I ain't got all night. Oh! Maybe you need a little push. How's this, then?"
Curio stepped back and outstretched her metal arm towards the group, giving them a full view of the palm of her hand which had a red spot in the middle of it. The gang tracked the movements of her hand as she aimed it at them, until the red spot opened like a gate, revealing its metallic insides. Then, a blue ball of energy grew from the inside of it. The other Claws screamed at the sight, backing further and further away from their shaking leader.
"Wanna see what this arm can do?"
The Meowth hyperventilated and fell on his knees, holding out both his paws in front of him.
"Okay, okay, okay, I'll bite, we'll leave it all with ya, take the bag and leave, jus' stop whatever you're doin'! Stop!"
The sphere disappeared and the hole in her hand closed over.
"There," she said with a toothy grin. "That wasn't so hard, was it?"
In exchange for all of the leftover wallets from their stash, which they passed in a conga line to her, Curio threw the bag to the ground in return. The sight of those tiny bags of powder, flowers and colourful looking fruits sent the gang over the edge. One by one, the Claws poked their heads into the bag and headed towards the forest. Eventually, the group that held Shine let go as well, dropping his limp body onto the grass as they joined the rest. The Meowth was the last to join, who retrieved a lone silvervine fruit and cupped it in his paws. He clutched it in his chest and inhaled deeply. With that, he seemed satisfied, but before he left, he scowled at Curio.
"I thought you was crazy for a Pokemon, or even for somethin' like a human, but you're not even that! You're an it!"
Just like the rest, the Meowth ran towards the route and disappeared into the night, but not before Curio flipped the Skarmory behind their backs, blowing a Razzberry.
A moment passed between them. Shine kept silent, not knowing what to say, and Curio cast a glance at Shine's direction. It came back to him. Her green eyes glowed in the dark, like they always did, and even the new scar across her muzzle didn't blemish her face. It was the first time they made eye contact in five years. That moment of serene silence broke as Curio burst into laughter, falling to her knees.
"Holy crap, I'm literally shaking." To punctuate that, she held her remaining paw up, which wobbled in the air. "I didn't think that'd actually work. Either they were really dumb or I was just lucky."
His vision faded as the stinging sensation of his wounds got to him at last. Curio bent over, putting her paw behind his head.
Before he could say anything to reassure her, Shine fainted.
Chapter 3 Patchnotes (11/02/20):
The first half of this chapter has been changed drastically while still keeping the end goal the same. The original Luccy scene was tossed out in favour of something more action focused and more showing of the Claws' impact instead of just telling like the last one. I also had to change that scene's motivation since someone found a part of it out of character for the other main character involved. The rest is pretty much the same.