Chapter 96

Pathways


"No, seriously. It is an actual sport. Two people just punch each other and then they have to play chess until someone's lights go out or someone gets checkmated. Crazy shit."

"The people of your reality are truly insane.

," Midna cackled, "This world has monsters but I am starting to think that yours might be more fucked up."

"Well, we didn't have space lizards and thunderbirds to stop us from fucking shit up," I laughed. Ironically, I couldn't really say which universe was better off. This world wasn't tormented by climate change but in exchange every so often people here would create doomsday devices. Maybe every world with humans is insane by default. Food for thought. My meal of philosophical meandering was interrupted by Fay.

"But you seem like a good person," Fay said, her voice almost inaudible.

It caught me really off-guard and I almost walked into a garbage bin. Fay turned red. "I mean… you are great, so, your reality can't be that messed up."

Man, that's not what I expected to hear. I smiled regardless. "I am by no means a great person and just because I look like a good person to you doesn't mean my world is."

Fay looked down. Was that a bit too pessimistic? I think she was disappointed with my answer but I couldn't see her expression. I knelt down to pat her on the head which made her blush again. That trick always worked.

"Okay team, remember to keep your mouths shut from now on. No more talking about the future or alternate realities in public." No matter what reality one finds themself in, talking about the future is a sure way of getting into trouble.

"You got it boss." Midna gave me a mock salute, while Fay simply nodded.

Luna remained silent.

I had been carrying her on my shoulders, something I hadn't done in a long time but she loved it before she evolved. I hadn't done it ever since she evolved. I'd like to think it was because a Kirlia was heavier than a Ralts but it was mostly because I simply didn't pay her much individual attention compared to before. Midna and Fay had their own problems which left little time for my dear starter. I felt slightly guilty about it and offered her a ride like the good ol' days.

Luna didn't bother to answer. Instead, she was just staring at the horizon. If she was trying to glare a hole in the sky, it might've just worked. At least she was determined enough.

We continued our journey in silence.

So far, Eterna City didn't feel like a city. Neither did it feel real; this entire place felt almost dream-like but not in a cozy way. More in a fever dream-ish way. The buildings all looked extremely similar; they all shared the same warm color scheme, style and had flower pots hanging from the balconies. Together they formed an extremely eerie-looking labyrinth of repeating streets. The warm early morning air only added to this weird atmosphere.

I had to double-check the street signs to make sure we didn't pass by the same street again.

I stifled a yawn as I reluctantly took out my Pokédex. "Oracle, directions to the nearest Pokécenter please."

"Information unavailable." The robotic female voice replied.

"Wha- why?"

"Unstable connection."

Midna gave me a curious look. Luna sighed.

"You're saying there's no Wi-Fi?" I asked, perplexed. "Even Eterna Forest has a connection."

"Correct." The Pokédex sounded awfully smug.

I put it away and groaned.

There weren't many other trainers on the road who I could bother.

"Okay, I got something better. Midna, please turn into a Pidgey and look for a Pokécenter, or Gym; or just anything that's not this."

The Zorua gave me an incredulous look. "Wait, why did no one think of this before?"

"I was just enjoying the scenery." Fay smiled sheepishly.

"And I am just stupid."

Luna continued her silence.

The Zorua's body began to glow and reshaped itself into a small bird. She flew up, over the houses and flew in a circle before coming down again.

"Yes," she turned back. "We are idiots."


With the help of Midna's directions–which included going back one street and taking a different turn–we finally arrived at the heart of the town.

It was a huge plaza with all kinds of small stores that were still preparing for the day. Two restaurants were serving breakfast for the trainers that had just arrived.

At the center there was a big field of grass reserved for trainer battles.

No one was battling. There were lots of Pokémon and a few people but they were all sunbathing and relaxing

On the other side of the plaza stood a modern complex that looked out of touch with the rest of Eterna. It had big window panels and oddly shaped support walls. The Pokémon Center logo stood proudly on the front and I was drawn to it like a moth to light.

The inside was just as clean and stylish as the outside which made the place look even more deserted than it normally would.

Not much was going on. I checked in, took the room key and asked for a map. The lady told me a little tourist shop at the plaza sold maps.

I briefly considered dropping my stuff at my room but decided against it because I planned on a shopping spree after beating the Gym.

I first went out to buy a map in the tourist shop, which made me feel really silly.

"Seriously, what's up with the net here? It's really bad."

The man behind the counter grinned as a ridiculous amount of money exchanged hands. "It's the Eterna History Museum. Lots of artifacts in there messin' with the atmosphere." He waved his hand in the air.

Fay's eyes flashed blue."Aaah, so that's it." She mumbled.

"And no one is bothered by this?" I asked the man.

"Well if you need something just use a computer or anything else with a cable." He handed me the map. "And sellin' maps to visitors is a nice side-hustle."

The fat man saw my dirty glare and let out a bellowing laugh. "Can I also offer you an 'I LOVE ETERNA' T-shirt?"

I didn't buy the T-shirt.


"You look silly with a map," Midna remarked.

"Ugh, I feel silly," I answered while holding the map like I was Bilbo Baggins going on a big journey, instead of trying to grind the local Gym.

"Anyway, we should be getting closer to it. You know the deal."

I took 2 Pokéballs from my belt and recalled Fay and Midna.

Luna didn't bat an eye. "You're still in?"

The Psychic nodded but didn't grace me with her voice.

With the map, I managed to navigate myself to the Gym.

The building wasn't what I expected it to be. Roark's Gym was basically a big boring building, maybe because of his type, but Gardenia's was a giant greenhouse.

I wasn't well versed with plant stuff but even I recognize beauty when it's in front of me.

The building was a majestic helical structure that had various vines and colorful flowers growing up the support beams, covering the building like a green blanket.

I wasn't even sure if the roof could be closed because freaking palm trees stuck out of it.

Through the glass I saw small critters moving around, having the time of their lives.

There were no other trainers nearby. I moved to the doors, expecting them to open automatically but nothing happened. I waved my hand over the scanner but nothing changed.

A document was sealed in plastic and plastered against the door. I assumed it to be some random League bullshit but decided to take the time to read it.


Official Sinnoh Pokémon League Gym Leader Absence

[date here]

The Gym leader of the [...Gym name here...] is currently not present, and/or able to conduct Official Gym Challenges due to a ...Murder Mansion ..If this Gym remains inactive for over...10... days...Kyle you take over. Don't touch my stuff... and the League will take steps to prepare a transfer of position.

Signed: Gardenia btw. If this letter still remains after 10 days call a ghost expert plz.


I blinked.

"The fuck."

Luna let out a long, audible sigh. I agreed with her.

I threw up two Pokéballs and watched both of them open mid-air to eject out a Zorua and Riolu. Both of them took defensive stances but that devolved into confusion pretty quick.

"Uhm, where's our opponent?" Fay pondered. She dropped her defense.

Midna shrugged and yawned.

"Guys, the Gym is closed." I tapped the letter. "We'll have to wait for Gardenia to return or die."

"Well, that sucks, can't we beat up this Kyle dude?" Midna asked after reading the thing for herself.

"This feels very..." Fay was struggling to find her words. "Sucky."

I agreed. I wanted to deal with this before committing to anything else. I hadn't considered the Gym being closed.

"What now?" Midna looked at me.

I briefly considered visiting the Great Plateau to find Gardenia but immediately scrapped it.

My journey to Eterna City had purposefully avoided the Mansion mentioned by Gardenia's letter. That place had been designated as a C-level threat on the map, mainly because of ghost Pokémon fucking with that place. After Froslass I didn't feel like hanging with ghosts anymore.

"Uh, well. I am stumped. Guess we'll have to wait some more." A chorus of groans told me nobody liked that idea.

"Dust?" A voice called from behind.

I looked up at the sky, wondering why people always see me before I see them.

I spun around and saw a familiar pair of eyes crossing mine. Mmm, purple eyes, that meant either Hylla, Chelsea, or...

"Good morning Sabrina," I smiled, "How lovely to see you again."

Sabrina rolled her eyes. "I see you still haven't managed to get yourself killed."

{Not because of a lack of trying.} Luna grumbled.

Sabrina frowned. "You two have trouble?"

Midna coughed loudly.

"You could say that. By the way," I pointed at Midna. "This is Midna, she can talk but that doesn't mean you should pay her any attention."

"Most Pokémon can talk." Sabrina said with a deadpan look.

"Ignore that, anyway. How are you doing? Still working on your anger management?"

I meant it as a joke but Sabrina's face grew darker and she made a fist.

One of Gardenia's hanging ivies suddenly snapped and fell to the ground below her.

The sudden display of power made my hand twitch for a weapon. However, I restrained myself, reminding myself that Sabrina was an ally. After all, she only tried to kill me once.

"That's a no?" My genius mind tried.

"Ugh." The psychic glared at no one in particular. "You have no idea how many people are trying to get on my nerves."

I didn't have any idea. Still, I tried being nice.

"Have you tried smiling more?"

Sabrina didn't even crack a smile. "I see you are still the same annoying person."

"Just for you queen meanie." I smiled.

She rolled her eyes again but I swear she was trying to hide a smile.

"So..." She awkwardly tried to start a conversation. She wasn't good at it.

Neither was I, but seeing her struggle with it was funny to watch.

"How have you been?"

Midna and Fay were whispering to each other. I couldn't see Luna's expression. Because talking with a Kirlia on my shoulders felt silly, so I lowered her from my back. She didn't say anything but spent her time looking at Sabrina with an odd expression.

"I am doing great, been traveling through the woods, trying new kinds of diets and got stuck inside an underground experiment lab. Pretty fun so far."

Sabrina nodded thoughtfully. "I saw your name being mentioned on that file. Red Orphanage or something. It sounded pretty rough."

Damn, she already knew. There goes my cheap moment of shock. "Yup."

"I thought of coming to visit but you know," she grimaced. "New problems keep popping up."

"You know what you need?" I asked. "You need to take some time to chill."

Sabrina scoffed. "I could say the same about you."

Midna whispered something into Fay's ears. Fay chuckled and said, "She says that you are literally repeating our advice to her."

Well, it's not stealing if it's helping others, probably. Besides, seeing Sabrina brightened up my mood. Annoying her is definitely at the top of my favorite-things list.

"When was the last time you just sat down and closed your eyes for the hell of it?" I asked.

Sabrina tried to come up with a reply but her frustration told me enough. "Look, I would love to frolic around all day but I am actually here for business."

I tapped the letter. "If you have any business with Gardenia you'll have to get in line."

Sabrina's eyes widened. She walked right past me and stared at the letter.

"That fucking bitch."

"Pretty sure Gardenia didn't do it on purpose."

"Not her," Sabrina said dismissively. "Curse her, I am behind."

"Behind who?"

"Not your bu..." She suddenly stopped mid-sentence. Glanced over her shoulder. Her eyes were going over me like she never noticed me before. She spun around, her long hair flowed in the air before she stopped when our faces were nearly pressing against each other.

Normally, that would be good but in this scenario I felt uncomfortable underneath her scrutiny.

Even Fay and Midna backed away.

"No, you will be perfect." Sabrina smiled. "Dust, do you want to go to the museum with me?"


A/N The second Sinnoh badge is still out of reach but in exchange, return of our favorite psychic! Yay. You know, it's pretty insane to see how many words this story has, and still has to go. Someone asked me if I shouldn't split this story up into different stories but I feel like that would become a big mess of different stories people would have to follow and read. I prefer to work with Arcs (we're at arc 5 right now). I think this story might be legit the slowest badge upgrade on FF. Well, at least we have other stuff.

Big thanks to my editor Arxalier and ghost writer Shade.

On a completely unrelated note; the masked singer would be more interesting to watch if everyone in the audience had a bomb under their seat and no, I am not obsessed with Squid Game.

(Reviews)

Theterminator5: I hope that was enough of an answer?

E: True, Movie and Game Arceus have both been nerved, compared to Lore.

Review your thoughts and I promise to write the next chapter faster!

Stormblade01: I won't, I do understand where the need comes from but it will both take up words and screen and break immersion (in my opinion)

DOOT76: True dat.

Cya!

-CaptainMoonShine-