Chapter One: Looking for the Perfect Shot
Anybody can take a picture, but few can truly capture the spirit of a moment. My father was one of the few that could. He was a well-known photographer across many regions, hired by all sorts of people to take photographs of them doing just about any activity: sports, posing with Pokémon, everyday things. And he somehow managed to make these normal, boring events feel alive and exciting.
Many years ago, my father passed away after being severely injured in a tragic accident. The radiant photos he left behind died with him. My name is Cameron; like my father I'm a photographer. Unlike him, I photograph Pokémon specifically. In many ways I'm a pale imitation of my dad. I've yet to give life to a photo as he did. Maybe I never will but that doesn't mean I won't keep trying. After all, I find joy in taking photos. And that's enough for me. Traveling the world isn't half bad either.
I was born in Azalea Town, a very small part of the Johto region. It's really an honor to be in a place like this despite how cold it is. As if sensing my thoughts, a rush of frigid wind hit me hard. It chilled me to my very core even with all my heavy lairs. I knew was going to be cold but this cold? Yeesh. I shuddered and wrapped my scarf tighter around myself, wiping off the snow that splattered across my face with the side of my glove. I inhaled the crisp cold air and shivered, gazing up the immense side of Mt. Coronet.
"Quite the climb," I commented loudly and glanced at my traveling companion; Gritch was a a guide more than a friend but he was nice enough. He was a wizened old man with a ginormous curved mustache and shaggy beard. Skinny as can be, Gritch looked utterly ridiculous in his over-sized, thick winter clothes. Not that I'd say that to his face.
The old man nodded. "Sure is, but if you want to take your pictures of rare Pokémon or what-not, this is one of the best places in the world to do so. This is where everything began in the Sinnoh region."
I nodded absent-mindedly, casting my eyes about and taking in everything I could. The constant snowfall was an annoyance as it made the world seem excessively bright, but my goggles protected me from most of its effects. It was so cold that the little bit of skin I had showing was beet red from the cold, not that I cared too much. Gritch was pink himself.
"The Arceus creation myth and all that, right?" I tried to keep the skepticism out of my voice as much as possible. I've never been a fan of Pokémon mysteries and mythology. Nothing was special about Pokémon or humans. There were no Pokémon gods, not to mention one that created the entire universe. We all just existed, and that was that.
Apparently, I failed to control my tone because Gritch's face twisted up. "Boy, they are not myths... they are absolute truths! All life in Sinnoh began at the peak of this mountain... at the Life Pillar." As Gritch spoke his voice changed and became almost dreamy. He was smiling. Crazy old people and their crazy stories, I suppose.
I nodded. "Sure, sure. And you said the higher up you go the more dangerous and rarer the Pokémon?"
Gritch looked like he wanted to say more but I knew he wouldn't. He was being paid after all. To guide me around Sinnoh and answer all my questions. He was a professional, so this Life Pillar creation myth nonsense would end there. Gritch toyed with his snow laden mustache. "Mhm. Large number of Poké up there. I'm sure you'll find great models for your pictures."
That was good. I got more money for pics of rarer Pokémon in their natural habitats than everyday ones. "I'll try and reach the top then."
Gritch nodded. "A reminder, my boy. I'll only go about a quarter of the way. It's dangerous up there, even with strong Pokémon like yours."
"I'm alright with that, still." I smiled and shrugged. "I appreciate the reminder, though. Let's make sure we have everything we need and start this shit." I opened my ginormous hiking pack, went down my mental bullet point list -everything that I needed- and made sure it was all there. Some food, poffins for my Pokémon, sleeping bag, blanket, camera, and backup camera... I nodded in affirmation.
"That's everything." I kept my main camera out, clutching it with my gloved fingers. Normally, I wouldn't dare to bring a camera out in weather like this, but this camera was special. And extremely expensive. It was snow proof, temperature proof, water proof. Basically, every sort of proof there is. High tech stuff, small but amazingly efficient. With my free hand I snatched a Pokéball from my waist and tossed it.
A large, sturdy Pokémon appeared with a flash of bright light, the Pokéball floating back into my hand right after. A ginormous, white creature greeted me with a big hug. My Abomasnow, Snowman, was always happy to see me. The bipedal Pokémon picked me up in its huge arms and I laughed.
"A-alright set me down now," I laughed as Snowman squished me into his chest. At my words, he obeyed. I was placed lightly on my feet, and the Ice/Grass type Pokémon stood in place and waited for an order.
I smiled and patted him on the arm. "No specific order, bud." I pointed at the entrance to the Mt. Coronet cavern. "We're gonna be traveling to the top of that mountain. It's dangerous. Want to help me out buddy?"
Snowman gazed at us, grunting its name. Then it looked at me and nodded its massive head. That was a yes. I smiled in appreciation. Snowman was my father's Pokémon before he passed away, but he loved me very much. I loved him too. After all, we basically grew up together. I knew him when he was just a weak little Snover.
All of my Pokémon belonged to my dad, actually. When he died he left me an Abomasnow, an Altaria, and a Smeargle. I always made sure they knew they didn't have to stay with me if they didn't want to. I wasn't a Pokémon battler and my father had been, so his Pokémon were fighters. So being released was always an option. A choice my dad's Blastoise, Dragonite, and Bastiodan made right at the beginning.
"Out you go, Cloyster." Gritch sent out his own Pokémon, and the frigid, round ice Pokémon greeted him with a strange, cold hiss of its name. It didn't even spare a glance for me. Afterall, the cold bastard hated me for trying to take a picture of it at the start of this little journey. Some Pokémon were camera shy, I guess. Or in his case, camera angry?
Now that we both had Pokémon to escort us, Gritch and I began our little adventure. It was rather painless. Some wild Pokémon gave us the stink eye, even fewer attacked. Most didn't want to mess with big, scary Pokémon who were fully evolved like Cloyster and Snowman. So, it was peaceful, in a way. I don't usually take pictures of caverns or any form of terrain really, but for some reason I liked the interior of. I took shots of everything I could, knowing my camera had the storage to hold as many images as I wanted.
Gritch kept silent, mostly. He seemed surprised that there weren't many Pokémon around.
"Is that unusual," I questioned, and Gritch looked at me.
I playfully pushed Snowman, who huffed happily at the contact, and grinned at the old guide. "Well maybe, but then again, a Pokémon would have to be really stupid to approach a bad looking Pokémon like Snowman." My Abomasnow puffed out its chest proudly, drinking in the praise apparently. I smiled at the sight, then frowned when Gritch's grim expression didn't change.
He didn't voice whatever concerns he had running through his head. I decided not to bother him. We kept traveling in silence. I gave Snowman a couple poffins because he was bored and offered some to Cloyster who just ignored me. After about a half an hour or so, we reached an exit to another part of surface. Snow poured hard up here, and in seconds my coat and hat were coated with the stuff.
Snowman huddled next to me, attempting to shield me from the downfall. His big old hands managed to keep most of it off me. It was visibly darker out. I wondered how much time had passed. It was almost evening.
We must've traveled farther than I thought we did. My aching feet confirmed that. I glanced at Gritch. "Want to take a break, old man?" The old man barely noticed my words. Only when I said "Gritch" loudly did he glance at me.
"Huh?" He grunted, narrowing his beady brown eyes.
I sighed. "A break. Want to take one?"
I expected him to say yes. The lazy old bastard usually requested frequent breaks whenever we went anywhere, but this time was apparently an exception. "No. I'd like to head back down as soon as possible." I gazed at Gritch's face. His anxiety was clear.
"What's wrong Gritch," I asked, "something on your mind?"
The old tour guide scratched at his stubble. "Hmm. Let's call it old man's intuition. I have a bad feeling." I raised an eyebrow, and Gritch huffed angrily. "It doesn't matter. Let's go."
"Alright. I am gonna take a piss though." Gritch nodded, shrugging. I wondered why he wanted to head back down so badly, but figured it was just some dumb paranoia involving Arceus or something. And I didn't care to ask. I grabbed the "pee bottle" from my bag and headed off behind a big, snow covered rock. The bottle was designed for...well, peeing. Specifically, in cold weather. I undid my pants and stuck the tube attached to the bottle inside, and my dick inside that carefully.
Cold weather always made me need to pee, and Sinnoh was nothing but cold temperatures for the most part... I sighed with relief as I emptied my bladder. There was no sound other than the steady trickle, and the powerful wind blowing. It was peaceful.
I could see so much of the mountain from here. It was seriously beautiful... I was gazing absentmindedly up the mountain, when something white and blue flashed in the corner of my eyes. A Pokémon stood before me, gazing at me with glowing eyes. The suddenness of it all made me fall backwards, dropping the bottle onto the ground, eyes wide.
"What is it Cameron?" I heard Gritch question.
I gazed at the Pokémon before me. It was a canine Pokémon, and it stood on four long legs. It had a beautiful mane of pure white and dark blue face coloring. Ruby eyes glinted from its face, and they stared deep into mine... I swallowed as I fully recognized it now.
An Absol. The long, sharp appendage on its head made that obvious. It had its head held high and proud.
Gritch gasped when he came around the corner, apparently horrified. "What in the world!? I knew it was something strange keeping the Pokémon away. That right there... a bringer if Ill luck. Even other Pokémon don't want to be around it."
Ah, that old tale. Absol's supposedly brought ill fortune on anyone who saw them. My dislike of the myth shook away whatever lingering fear I had. I zipped up my pants and pushed myself up, gazing down at the beautiful Pokémon. I reached out toward it, but it backed away. It backed away further when Snowman finally came around the corner, huffing and puffing. The huge Pokémon quickly grew alarmed, stomping forward and in front of me with surprising speed for something so ginormous.
The Absol hissed, the horn on its head glowing with warning. Then It looked me in the eyes one last time and dashed away, leaping up the outcrops leading up the mountain. I just managed to fist my camera out and raise it, quickly taking a shot. The image was...breathtaking. Absol's form was clear, even among the vivid, white snow. It was mid-leap. I lowered the camera, panting. Why had Absol shown itself to me? A small part of me wondered if the myths were right and I was about to get involved in some horrible accident. I pushed away the doubt quickly, and instead focused on getting myself mentally prepared for moving on ahead.
Apparently, Gritch was having none of that. "I'm going back down," he stated, crossing his arms. His Cloyster hummed its approval.
"What do you mean? You haven't done your job, you old bag of dirt!" I glared at him. He met my gaze, shaking his head.
"I'll quit the job and give you a full damn refund if I hafta! I aint climbing any more than I already have. That Absol was tryna warn ya! You should appreciate its kindness and head back down as soon as you can! I'm sure that pic you got of it is enough." I sighed, shaking my head.
"You head back down. I don't care." Gritch held my gaze. I expected him to back down. To agree to climb with me, at least a little bit more, albeit begrudgingly. He was a good man who kept his word. Very loyal, even if he was a bit of an ass. But he just turned away. Truly spooked, I guess. I couldn't be too mad. If he was terrified he had a right to leave, and I of course wouldn't want a full refund. I still had so much of Sinnoh to explore.
"I'll see you when I finish up here!"
"I sure hope so! Let's meet in Celestic City...if you make it out." The expression on his face made it clear he didn't think I would. I sighed as he disappeared back into the cave, his gigantic Cloyster following close behind.
That left just me and Snowman. "You ready to go bud?" The giant Abomasnow nodded his grand head and began to shuffle along. We continued to travel. On and on and on. It felt like we weren't making any progress at all. And the farther we went up the colder it got, it seemed. Maybe that was natural, but something felt...off. Like it was too cold. Rather than just snowing it was a frigid blizzard. Like something was causing it. I could barely see, even out my goggles, it got so bad. Snowman didn't complain but even he seemed...off. Like he was anxious.
I still snapped shots of the environment, but not as much as before. I had my camera raised and pointed toward one of the many cave entrances and... that's when I saw it. I dropped the camera I got so terrified. A flash of vivid, ice white eyes and a sinister smile. It disappeared into the snowstorm as quickly as it appeared. My heart hammered in my chest, and I knelt and fumbled around. What...what was that? Heart pounding, I glanced around.
"Snowman! Did you see that? I think it was a Pokémon!"
The Abomasnow shook his head. "Abom," He grumbled, clearly nervous.
"You're saying you want to go back in your Pokéball?" I questioned, shocked. I could see it in his eyes. The ginormous Pokémon, who was extremely protective of me...slowly nodded. I guess he was as spooked as Gritch. Maybe I really should head back."Okay. I'm heading back down anyways." I tried to keep my voice steady, but I was scared.
Those terrifying eyes kept flashing in my head. Was it a figment of my imagination, created by the horrid snowstorm? "Return, Snowman."
I stared ahead. Everything on this giant rock looked the damn same: endless cliffs, endless cave entrances. Truly a labyrinth. I headed back the way I came, grabbing my backpack straps, moving my legs steadily. That's when it happened. The Pokémon appeared again. I guess it came closer because Snowman was gone now. My eyes widened when I realized what it was -what!? Froslass weren't supposed to appear around here! But there was no mistake. I got a good, clear look at her.
The strange, hollow figure. The frigid smile and kimono-like body, its vivid, frosty blue eyes. They were locked on me. Terror seeped into me. I know a fair bit about Pokémon. And I know the one reason why a Froslass would ever show itself to a trainer. A human, in general.
It was going to steal me away.
It appeared a fair distance in front of me. Its soft, strange voice was crystal clear even with the heavy wind and snowfall. "Frosss...~" Its voice was almost sing-songy, haunting, and that made it even more terrifying. Hollow and cold and... beautiful. I reached for my Pokéball and quickly grabbed one. I don't know what specific one. I was about to release my Pokémon when suddenly- My eyes widened, and I couldn't stop a scream from tumbling from my throat.
A razor sharp, medium-sized shard of ice shot toward me. I flinched, recoiling. I was dead! But the blow never came. Instead, I heard a shattering sound. My eyes widened as I felt something crumble in my hand. Wait...I gazed at the Pokéball. Wait, no... that's not possible. At least it shouldn't be. I'd never heard of something like this happening! I realized it was Artie's Pokéball that this Froslass had shattered. Where then... did he go? I'd never heard of Pokéballs being destroyed. Not like this. Where...where was he?
"A-Artie!?" I held the bits of the Pokéball in my hands.
"Hehe, Lasss~" I glanced up, eyes narrowed. I met the terrifying gaze of the Ice-Ghost type that was now hunting me.
She was closer now. Drifting, her strange kimono flowing beautifully in the winds. "Get the fuck away from me!" I screamed. "What did you do to Artie, damn it!?" I grabbed another Pokéball. She moved faster than I did. Before I could even grab it, the Froslass shot another spear of ice. I saw the ultra-thin, small icicle coming. And... I was a coward. I should have blocked it with my hand. Protected Snowman's Pokéball. After all, I didn't know the effects of their Pokéballs being destroyed. But I instinctively pulled away. And... his Pokéball shattered just like the other one. She'd somehow made sure the icicle didn't go any further than the Pokéball, so I wasn't hurt. Why not just kill me, damn it!? Why was she taunting me like this!?
"D-DAMN YOU! Snowman!?" It was fine. I... I was sure they just...returned to the Pokémon Center. That had to be it. They weren't gone. Not forever. Apparently...my brain didn't believe that rational because I felt tears dripping down my cheeks. Or maybe those were tears of terror. She destroyed my last Pokéball before I could even reach for it. And just like that...I was alone. My Altaria, Abomasnow, and Smeargle were gone. It was just me and Froslass now.
The Froslass giggled mysteriously, covering her "mouth"' with her hand. She was mocking me. "Fros~" Her lilting, taunting tone made me unbelievably pissed but there was nothing I could do. Just try to escape. Why was she playing games with me!? And just like that...she disappeared. Back into the snowstorm she came from. I couldn't control my emotions.
"Damn you!" I screamed. "Just kill me! You didn't have to do that to my damn Pokéballs!" I panted heavily, my voice muffled by my scarf. I stood there, terrified. I was right. It was getting even colder by the second, the blizzard getting more intense. It was so bad...that I couldn't even clearly see what was in front of me. Everything just looked...white. The only thing I was able to find was my camera, still on the ground. I dropped, grabbing it, and stood up. Fuck the perfect shot, I was leaving! But...
I stared all around me. Which way was the exit again?