CHAPTER 2 - Does The Past Haunt You? (I Won't Let It)

The duo were pleased to say that everything had moved on pretty smoothly from their departure at their hideaway. They didn't linger long at Pewter, choosing to have a quick breakfast at the Pokemon Centre before departing for the gates of the city. They had talked about either crossing through Viridian Forest or bypassing the Bug-type infested forest entirely via the eastern path.

Surprisingly, they chose the former since Rane was determined to see through her Master's words of seeing the place differently. Basil, as expected, complied to her request and in the early morning, the two Trainers ventured into the forest.

"We can take the eastern path when we return back to Pewter," Rane said, slightly jittery. Isis gave her a comforting nudge on her ankle, scarlet eyes relaying the message that no harm will come to her Trainer as long as the Nidoran stood.

The telltale sounds of Bug-types reverberated through the air, a constant buzz as they trekked on the dirt path. They ran into other Trainers, some whom they battled with ease and others who gave them more trouble though their win-to-lose ratio still remained impressive.

They already had a way of battling planned out, usually allowing the challenger to choose whom to battle or just taking turns at battling. If they had the chance, they'd fit in a double battle.

Rane was hyper-aware of her surroundings, fidgeting at the slightest rustle in the leaves but quickly reeling in her fear. She had never been more grateful for Basil who helped her keep her mind off things, talking about their letters and whatever Pokemon their Master had sent them to find.

"Kings and queens, huh?" Basil whistled quietly, watching Perses' ears twitch at his voice. "We're gonna have quite the team on our hands."

"I don't doubt that one bit."

"Given any thought of who'll be waiting for you at Fuchsia?"

Rane shrugged, "The Safari Zone holds the most endangered species there is- I don't even know where to begin, much less for a 'queen'."

"But you're not looking for a 'queen'-" Basil stared at her when she stared back. "You're going to guide them to become a queen, not necessarily starting out with one. The same goes for me."

Rane nodded slowly, taking in Basil's words. She knew all this, of course, but that didn't make things any easier.

"We just have to see where these letters take us," Basil concluded, glancing up at the canopy of the forest. They walked in silence for a while longer, taking a break and switching out Perses for Isis so the male Nidoran could rest.

The Nidorans held strong on their own in the forest, mostly due to the training they've been put up with for over a year, building strength and honing their techniques under the watchful eyes of their Master's own Pokemon.

When they had finished setting up camp for their last night in the forest, Basil set to get their Trainer Meals while Rane set up the Pokemon food. Rane jumped to her feet when a loud buzz came from the trees behind her, eyes wide and a hand on Isis' PokeBall despite the fact that the Nidoran was released.

Basil eyed the treeline, setting down the food and whistling for Perses who immediately came to stand beside his Trainer, toxic spines already dripping with his poison.

The boy walked forward slowly, reaching into his pack for his Trainer-licensed baton that was meant more of a tool than a weapon but it worked either way.

Rane made a slightly strangled sound from the back of her throat, as still as a Metapod, frozen to her spot.

Basil moved, Perses on his heels while Isis stood by her own Trainer. After a moment of rustling the bushes, Basil returned to the girl, visibly relaxed.

"False alarm, just a Pidgey." He assured, getting a slow and uncertain nod from Rane.

The boy gently guided her down onto the grass, passing her the standard Trainer Meal and urged her to eat silently while he got the Nidorans to eat. The girl ate mechanically, not exactly tasting her food as she sat stiffly, dark chocolate eyes holding a slightly frantic gleam to them.

"Rane," Basil voice shook her out of her trance, the boy's gaze on her was understanding and empathetic. "You'll be fine, you've been doing great so far. We'll be out of here in two weeks- ten days if we make it quick." He rubbed a spot between Perses' ears, earning a satisfied growl from the Poison-type.

"So rest up, we'll leave right at dawn."

The girl sighed, running her hands through her curls as her shoulders drooped. She gave Basil another wry grin, nodding. "Thanks for that," She mumbled, scratching a spot on Isis' neck as well when Basil replied with a knowing smile.

They cleaned up quickly, settling into their sleeping bags and throwing a few more pieces of kindle into their small fire. Both of them had flipped on their PokeDexes, going through data and doing their own things before going to bed.

"Wake me if you need to, alright?" Basil said, eyeing the girl who volunteered to take first watch. Rane nodded silently, gesturing for him to sleep as she pulled her knees to her chest and stared into the fire.

It would get better, she promised herself, shutting her eyes tightly when a particularly loud buzz resonated through the night air.

To start this journey off like this, Rane has half a mind to let out a delirious laugh. If someone told her she'd be doing this a year ago or even a month ago, she'd probably call their bluff and make a quick exit.

Viridian Forest?

There was just no way.

But here she was, under the canopy of trees that extended around the city she once called her home. The sprawling fauna and the telltale sounds of its inhabitants surrounding her like-

A cocoon.

Silk wrapped snugly against her body, the intense hum of Bug-types, the few rays of the setting sun that had managed to pierce through the leaves of the trees-

Rane banished the thought away.

She set her eyes on the flickering flames before her, and then on the way the fire reflected in Isis' eyes. The female Nidoran had been staring shamelessly at her, as though reading Rane's thoughts. She had shuffled closer, ears twitching and eyes locked on Rane.

The girl pulled her starter onto her lap, careful to avoid the poison spikes.

Isis nuzzled her affectionately, growling softly with the assurance that nothing would touch her as long as the little Nidoran was by her side.

"Thank you," She murmured softly, the words barely audible though she knew the Nidoran had caught them.

She could get through this, she needed to.

Viridian City was known as 'the Gateway to Indigo Plateau', a major city that saw both rookies and experienced Trainers flooding at the start and end of their journeys.

With Pallet Town to the south and Pewter City to the north, the former which was home to the famous Professor Oak while the latter home to the Pewter City Gym where many rookie Trainers sought for the Boulder Badge, rookies would often find themselves amazed by the grand entrance located to the west where Indigo stood tall and proud.

Experienced Trainers who wished to challenge the Pokemon League could be found randomly flocking to the Viridian City Gym to battle it out for the Earth Badge. Despite the fiasco that Giovanni had caused, Green Oak had cleaned up the Gym's name once more as its new Gym Leader, proving to be just as tough of a challenge as Giovanni was, as expected of the runner up for the previous Pokemon League Championships.

But Viridian City being so close to Viridian Forest had its cons.

The swarm of Bug-types had been a problem up until Green's reign on the Viridian Gym. The man had dealt with the problem himself in the beginning, ensuring that the path in Viridian Forest ways away from any hives and even keeping a team of Trainers to be on the rotation to keep Viridian safe.

Still, what was lost could not be returned.

It was not often that the Bug-types of Viridian Forest would cause havoc in the city- they stayed in their hive and the people stayed away. It was a most unfortunate case when a smug Trainer had claimed that he caught a 'monster of a Beedrill that put up a real tough fight' from the depths of the forest, his loud voice carrying over the murmurs of the crowd that he had drawn.

It was barely half an hour later when all hell broke loose.

The buzzing was the first sign, starting out as a low hum to a loud earth-shaking noise that drew people's attention from their daily lives. The leaves in the forest surrounding Viridian started rustling, and in a mere moment a literal cloud of Beedrills shot up from the greenery, their buzzing loud enough to mute the frightened screams of the people.

As one they shot down, attacking at random and unfortunate people and Pokemon who could not find shelter quick enough.

Screams pierced the air.

The Beedrill were a frenzy of black and yellow and destruction. Citizens were running and hiding while Trainers did whatever they could to stop the mess. Flamethrowers, Water Guns, Thunderbolts and many more attacks danced in the air, striking down the buzzing Poison Bee Pokemon but more just took their place. Some people and smaller Pokemon were carried away back to the forest, their screams and wails leaving others wide-eyed and terrified while everyone did everything they could to get them back.

Several Ground-types quickly erected a few earthen shelters to shield whoever that needed it, not too much help for the aerial battle while a few Pokemon formed green Protect barriers that kept people from harm.

It was just a little under thirty minutes of madness.

Had it not been for someone who had heard the bragging of the Beedrill Trainer, the disaster would've lasted much, much longer.

There was a scuffle in the earthen shelter as the Beedrill Trainer refused to believe that he was the cause of all this and that the other Trainer- a striking young girl in her early years of training- was conning him. But once the girl had managed to release the Beedrill that he had caught, it was all partly over.

The monster of a Beedrill screeched, larger than most of the ones outside, ruby gaze furious as it brought its poisoned stinger down onto the atrocity of its PokeBall and the capture device broke into pieces. As though that hadn't been enough, it spat a Sludge Bomb barrage that reduced the offending device into a puddle of purple goo.

And then, it spun onto its previous Trainer.

It had almost been too fast to stop, but when the Beedrill Queen was intercepted by a Ninjask who gave its teammate- a Chansey- just enough time to form a Protect around the people, a death was avoided.

"Get it outside!" The Ninjask's Trainer yelled over the noise while other people held the Beedrill's former Trainer back. The girl moved out of the shelter, her Chansey quickly forming a Protect barrier around her.

The moment the Ninjask pushed the Beedrill Queen out of the confined shelter, the Bug and Poison-type screeched once more.

The effect was immediate- all the Beedrills stilled, enraptured by their Queen's release. As one they flew forward, keeping a fair distance away from their leader.

Everyone held their breath, wary of what would occur next.

From the shelter, the Beedrill's former Trainer ran out, screaming profanities at the girl for releasing his prized Beedrill until the Queen pointed a stinger at him and screamed.

The girl knew she wouldn't have been able to stop it- she knew it but that didn't mean she was still prepared for what happened next.

As her Chansey poured every last bit of her energy into the Protect to at least ensure the safety of her Trainer, the Beedrill dove at the boy who stood frozen to his spot and watched on as his demise flew straight at him.

The Beedrill didn't bother to linger much longer, and in minutes the events prior felt like a freakish daydream.

But it was real, because the scream of the Chansey's Trainer startled everyone who wasn't staring at the mutilated body of the boy. There were other screams mixed in- children crying, parents begging for anyone to help them save their child who had been carried away back to the hive.

As the Viridian City Police Department and Viridian City Gym Trainees helped with the aftermath, an emergency call for help had been sent to the Indigo Plateau Pokemon Rangers to deal with the kidnappings.

A team consisting of Bug-type Specialists and Anti Bug-type Specialists arrived mere minutes later in front of the Viridian City Pokemon Centre. Upon taking the status of things they entered Viridian Forest and begun their search and rescue mission.

Rane doesn't remember how long she was trapped against the rough silk casing that the Weedle of the hive had spun, but she remembers everything else much too clearly.

She remembers the initial hum from the forest. She remembers the kids in the park stopping to stare at the treeline that wasn't too far away. She remembers how the Beedrill shot out and the screams of terror from the children grew louder when a few of them were carried away.

She remembers seeing her parent's face- the two of them still in their work attire when they exited the Viridian University and made a beeline for her. Her father yelling at her mother to grab the other kids while he ran straight for her.

She remembers suddenly not feeling the ground beneath her feet, the look on her father's distraught face, the anguish of her mother's cry, and she remembers a Beedrill diving at her father's unguarded back.

She kept quiet in her little silk case, quickly realizing that the Beedrills that had stayed behind in the hive went for the ones who were the noisiest. Frantic eyes of the captured sought each other out, looking for a way out- but the silk had bound them all tightly, leaving no room for escape.

She made herself as small as possible, biting down on her lips until she drew blood just to stifle her own sobs.

The entire hive returned not too long after and by then Rane was sure she had cried herself into exhaustion.

When help finally arrived, Rane didn't think she could spare them any tears, happy ones or not.

Smokescreen crept up the hive, closed in by a strong psychic shield while the Rangers set to work. They unbounded everyone and once everyone in the perimeter was free they were teleported straight to Viridian City's Hospital for a quick checkup.

Rane doesn't remember what happened next but she does remember a waiting room where everyone who had been captured had huddled together, waiting for their respective family members to pick them up if they were too young.

No one came to pick her up.

She had curled her knees to her chest, still trembling until a calming energy washed over her, almost like a lullaby to sleep. When she looked up, a Blissey and a harried young nurse was in front of her, her professional facade cracking at the sight of her because she knew why no one was here to pick her up.

And with one look into the nurse's eyes, Rane had a sick feeling in her stomach that knew why as well.

"Are you sure about this?"

The concern in his voice was hardly subtle, and for that Rane was immensely grateful for his presence and support. She had considered the thought of asking him to come along with her but decided to do this on her own.

The duo arrived in Viridian in the record time of nine days, having stepped out of the forest gates and into the city's boundaries just a little past noon.

They were deadbeat, and Rane had felt a slight hint of guilt when she knew it was mostly on her for pushing them to travel so quickly through the maze-like forest. Basil had kept his silence and pushed on beside her easily, and she couldn't have been more grateful.

There had been days where she was sure they were borderline running, her frenzied mind determined to get her out of imminent and lurking danger that hid behind the thick foliage of the trees. If not for Isis' very persistent growling at her every night they set up camp, Rane thinks that they would've cleared the forest in under a week.

Having said that, the first few nights in Viridian Forest had been just plain bad.

Rane had barely gotten any sleep between the recurring nightmares and having her body's fight-flight-freeze response on overdrive, though once she figured that if she trained herself to the ground and was too exhausted to care about her surroundings, she swiftly abused that tactic.

It wasn't the best, and judging by Basil's concerned gaze burning her back every day he agreed too, but slowly and surely she could get some proper rest.

On the last night, she had felt more relaxed than she ever thought she could be. It wasn't much, but it was a start, and a start was what she needed.

They probably looked horrible when they entered the Pokemon Centre, though after getting their rooms and freshening up, Rane was determined to keep going at the day.

"Sure enough. Meet you back at the Centre for dinner?"

Basil nodded, waving her off. "Drop me a message on your Dex if you something comes up." He said before she walked off, her destination set in her mind.

"The most important thing for you two is to truly immerse yourself into this journey, but there's another thing we'd like you to focus on- build your network, make reliable connections and sources anywhere you can. These will be the people or even Pokemon that are able to help you in some way no matter what it is."

Those were Master's words. Rane hadn't been too happy about it but she understood where and why it had to be done.

The apprentices themselves had seen some of their Master's allies during their training period.

"We're not saying that they need to know all about what we do- they just need to be a dependable someone when you need help no matter how small."

That's how Rane found herself standing before Viridian University. The familiar structure sent waves of aches through her heart while she willed herself to move past the doors between the two stone statues of the college's mascot.

She received a few curious looks when she entered but she ignored them all for it was not exactly new for travelling Trainers to make their way into a university compound looking for specific lecturers or professors to enquire on certain topics. Once she received her visitor's pass and had quietly checked for directions, she was well on her way to a rather familiar room.

She knocked twice on the wooden door that led to the Department of Pokemon History and waited.

A girl around the age of sixteen or so opened the door, her long black hair tied into a ponytail swishing behind her. Her striking lilac almond-shaped eyes met Rane's own melted chocolate ones in surprise but she quickly recovered and gave the younger girl a kind smile. Rane gave one back, stepping aside to let the older girl pass before she herself stepped into the room.

"Dear Legendaries above," An achingly familiar voice gasped from the side, "Rane, is that you?"

Rane turned on her heel towards the source of the voice, a slender woman in a standard lab coat with light brown hair twisted into an updo and green eyes, frozen as she took in the sight that was Rane.

Rane bit her lip. "Professor Juniper-"

The woman rushed forward so fast all the girl could do was brace herself. The hug was tight and Rane was ready to break into sobs when she felt the woman's firm embrace.


"Aunt." The Professor didn't even pull back and Rane could hear the shaking her the woman's voice when she spoke. "It's Aunt Juniper to you. Just because you pulled a disappearing act on me for two years doesn't mean you call me Professor."

Rane sagged slightly into the embrace.

Even when years had passed, she was still the same.

"Dear Legendaries above, Rane, where have you been?" The head of department asked when she pulled arms-length away, keeping her hands clamped tightly on the girl and giving Rane a look from head to toe.

"You've grown up so well," The woman chuckled, rubbing a tear away from her eyes.

Rane took a deep breath and looked at the woman straight in her eyes and gave the Professor a reassuring smile.

"I guess I should start from the beginning,"

At the beginning of their journey, Rane had asked Azalea for some help when they were told to build their networks, going through what can be said and what should be avoided.

"You have someone in mind," Azalea stated matter-of-factly.

The one thing that people who knew Rane truly understood about her was her undeniable trust in her Master. She would never hide something from the older girl, never even bear the thought of hurting the one who pulled her onto her feet and brushed off the dust on her.

"She's my parents' colleague and she was basically family. The attack," Rane swallowed to pushed through, "Left her in the hospital because of the poison found in her bloodstream. It was only a few months ago that I saw her news on the internet."

"Professor Aurea Juniper, Head of Department of Pokemon Origins in Viridian University?" Azalea supplied knowingly.

Rane's eyes widened in surprise. "How…?"

Azalea gave her a small reassuring grin. "You've talked about her a few times around me. I pieced it together when you said she was a colleague of your parents."

That was a thing about Azalea- she paid attention to the tiniest details, the smallest things and kept it tucked away in her memory for when the situation calls for it.

The younger girl knows that her Master had done all that she could have done and more after the Beedrill incident.

Azalea had somehow dealt with all things legal, providing documents and whatever necessities that the authorities needed before she swept Rane away under her wing. The older girl had also taken the young Rane to her home and collected her belongings, making sure most of the loose ends were tied promptly and without hassle.

This instance was exactly what Rane should have expected out of the older girl.

Rane sighed, thankful it wasn't bad news at all. She had been terrified at the thought that the Professor wouldn't be a safe source. Azalea had seemed to sense that, placing a comforting hand on the girl's shoulder.

"Hey," She started, her voice soft. "I'm glad that you're being safe about all this, but sometimes you just have to take the leap and see what happens."

The girl gulped, nodding slowly. "How much can I tell her?"

Azalea gave the girl a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder and looked straight into her eyes.

"However much you want to."

Professor Juniper listened.

She did not stop the girl when she spoke, sometimes with tears in her eyes but mostly with a notable glow to her entire being.

The girl has grown up, Juniper thinks, from the way she held herself to the way she did things in her life story.

"Here I am now," Rane finished, the look in her eyes no longer quite dead. It was like a spark of fire had returned to her chocolate orbs, drawing you in like a Combee to honey.

Just like how it looked good when it was in the eyes of her students in the university, it looked even better on little Rane. The girl who she thought she lost alongside her closest friends during the attack years ago, one she never thought she'd get to see again.

But Juniper wouldn't have done Rane's parents right if she couldn't see the tiniest hint of uncertainty in those eyes.

"You've really got out there, haven't you?" Juniper smiled, a soft and proud glint in her own green eyes. "And now you're on a whole new journey too,"

Rane nodded slowly.

"This Master of yours sounds like a very capable person. I don't know exactly how much I trust her actual capabilities now, so please be careful, Rane. There are more things in the world out there to be afraid of than we know, and I have my doubts how much her team can take on without facing the consequences."

Juniper closed her eyes, willing her mind to not make up a much unfavourable scenario.

"But if anything, know that you have my support- your team too for that matter." She paused, tilting her head to her side slightly with a small smile on her face. "I know your parents would've supported this as well."

Juniper rose from her seat, moving forward to give the girl another long embrace, very assured that the girl's parents were watching on as their child grew up and moved mountains.

"I'm sorry, you know, about…" Rane trailed off as she and Basil started their walk to look for a dinner spot.

They had met up in the Centre as planned, though the girl decided it'd be a better decision to have dinner out in the city instead of the Centre's canteen.

Basil gave a confused tilt of the head, his silence asking her to fill in the gaps.

"About how I acted in the forest."

If they hadn't been standing next to each other, Basil wouldn't have gotten the softly spoken words. As it were, he visibly relaxed.

"You don't have to apologize, you know that right?" He murmured. Sure the pace Rane set them on had been tiring, but he didn't have the heart to say anything about it. "I'm proud of you for deciding to take the forest, but maybe next time we don't push ourselves to do things we're not quite ready to do, yeah?"

Rane gave him a wry grin. "Isn't that the exact opposite of what this journey is meant to be? The opposite of what Master Azalea and Redwood had been teaching us?"

Basil rolled his eyes. "I think they'd be stunned by what you did. Impressed too, for that matter, but I doubt Azalea would be too pleased."

If Rane agreed, she didn't voice her thoughts.

"There's nothing to forgive, so don't apologize." Basil summed up, glancing at her with a determined gleam in his eye that dared her to retaliate. When she didn't, they settled into lighter topics.

The duo exchanged their stories of their day as they walked, winding around different people and Pokemon. Once they found a place to their taste and had settled into their seats, Rane had finished her tale.

"I spent some time at the Trainer's Plaza," Basil started once they ordered their food, referring to the general area where Trainer's would gather for a quick battle that could be found in almost any town or city. The boy proceeded to go into a summary of his battles, recalling things he wanted to work on with Perses and anything else that had caught his attention.

"There was one really good battle- a Golbat against a Ninjask." Basil murmured, thanking the waiter for the food. Rane did the same before motioning for the boy to continue.

"I didn't realize how lethal Ninjasks could be- the Golbat couldn't even land a hit." Basil paused, eyes losing focus for a brief moment like how he did when he was lost in his thoughts. "The Ninjask's Trainer was strong, there was this energy about her that reminded me of Azalea..." He trailed off, knowing that Rane understood what he meant, and Rane did.

There was just this undeniable difference in energy that was just so Azalea. If this Trainer that Basil was speaking of was an eighth of what Azalea was, Rane wanted to keep a lookout for this person.

"And I guess that's what our Masters meant by making our team into kings and queens- that by strengthening our Pokemon we would strengthen ourselves." He chuckled, a grin on his lips and his eyes shining.

Rane couldn't help but to mirror his grin.

"You know what? I think so too,"

For all the trouble they went through to get past Viridian Forest, their stay in Viridian was short-lived.

After having Basil and Professor Juniper meet early the next day, the duo decided to split up for a few hours so Basil could truly experience Viridian in his own light. Rane, on the other hand, had decided to check up on the Viridian City Pokemon Gym.

Pokemon Gyms were a good way to get any expert advice on Pokemon in general, especially on whatever type that gym was specialized in. The Gym Leaders held a great deal of respect in the town they resided in, even Gym Trainees were held in higher regard.

Considering that Isis and Perses were to evolve into partial Ground-types, Rane had decided it couldn't hurt to ask for a few pointers.

But that wasn't the main reason she wanted to check out the infamous Gym- from what her Master had told her, the Ground-type leader Giovanni had turned out to be the leader of Team Rocket. While the news had been kept from the public to prevent a mass panic that would result in the loss in trust of Gym Leaders and the Pokemon League itself, a certain few were still very much aware of this; especially for people like Master Azalea.

She rounded the corner that would lead to her destination, jumping back in surprise right when another figure came into view.

The only thing that kept Rane from falling was the firm grip on her forearm that kept her steady.

Her eyes met those of almond-shaped lilac ones that were widened in surprise, a soft gasp escaping the person's parted lips.

"Are you alright?" The raven-haired girl asked, a Ninjask flying closely right above her shoulder.

Rane nodded, an easy smile on her lips. "It's nothing, I'm alright!"

The older girl gave her a lighthearted chuckle. "Sorry for running into you- I wasn't paying attention to where I was heading." She paused, taking in the sight of the girl. "You're the one who went to see Professor Juniper yesterday, aren't you? It's nice to meet you, I'm Jace."

Rane's eyes lit up with realization, "Yes, that's me. You were there before me- I'm Rane, it's nice to meet you too."

A light buzzing sound turned their attention to Jace's Ninjask, who Jace rolled her eyes but shot a fond smile at. "This is my Ninjask, Arash." The Trainer introduced while Rane gave the Bug/Flying-type a timid nod.

"Are you planning on challenging the Gym?" She asked offhandedly, gesturing to the building.

The younger girl shook her head as she waved her hands, "Ah, no, not really. Just wanted to check it out."

Jace nodded, a look in her eyes that Rane couldn't quite place what it meant. "The new leader's not in, but he's just as tough as Giovanni."

"You've battled him- Giovanni, I mean?"

Jace gave a nod in response, a fond smile in her eyes. "Took me three tries before I got the Earth Badge,"

Rane's eyes lit up with admiration.

While Giovanni was a leader of a crime syndicate, he was first and foremost known to be the toughest Gym Leader in the Kanto Pokemon League. Even though it is possible to defeat him, much like how Champion Red had done so, it was still a rare occurrence to be the holder of an Earth Badge.

Arash had chosen this time to buzz around Jace's head, much to his Trainer's amusement.

Jace shot her an apologetic smile. "I gotta run. It's nice meeting you, Rane, maybe I'll see you around?" The lilac-eyed girl grinned, extending a hand to the younger girl who shook it firmly.

"I hope so!" The comparatively rookie Trainer grinned before waving goodbye at the older girl.

Jace was interesting, Rane decided, keeping a mental note to check up on her in the Trainer database later on. After all, someone who had managed to defeat Giovanni- despite the number of tries- was still someone to keep an eye out for.

Once she had made her way to the front entrance of the gym, Rane stopped and peered through the glass doors before entering.

It held the standard front desk for registration, and official certificates lined the wall behind the desk. There were a few seats to the side, not unlike the entrance to the doctor's office. All in all, it didn't seem like there had been much of an extra personalization to the front of the gym.

"Are you here for a battle?"

The voice shook Rane out of her trance- she had been reading the certificates on the wall, the very one that stated that Green Oak was the leader of Viridian City Gym, alongside a profile shot of the very same person who was speaking to her now.

For someone who became a Gym Leader at the age of fourteen, Green really had the whole aura down to a pat. She had seen the video of the battle between Green and Red at the Pokemon League Championships and it had been an awe-inspiring sight.

The current fifteen-year-old raised a brow at the girl who just realized she hadn't answered him.

"Ah, sorry, uhm, no." Rane cringed at herself before continuing, "I'm actually here for some advice," She asked shyly.

When Green didn't say anything, she elaborated.

"I know Giovanni had a Nidoking and Nidoqueen so I wanted to ask for some help," She explained meekly, almost shy at the boy's piercing gaze. Basil's eyes were of a darker shade, she mused.

At the mention of the Pokemon the boy seemed to relax slightly, finally giving a nod in response to her words.

"Are you having trouble?" He asked, startling the girl slightly. She hadn't expected him to ask, and while he may not be a Ground-type Master like Giovanni is, Green Oak was still the successor of the Viridian Gym and grandson of a world-renowned Pokemon Professor Samuel Oak.

"Not really," She shrugged, "Just wanted some advice for the future. I have a female Nidoran at the moment," The girl added.

Green nodded.

"Its toxins are its best weapon right now- find a way to be efficient in that. Once it's evolved the armour plating will keep it from much harm but don't rely solely on that."

"Armor can only protect you so much," Green said, though Rane had a feeling his words weren't exactly directed at her anymore- a past memory, maybe- but she listened on nonetheless.

"Anyone stubborn enough can break through it."

The words echoed in her mind long after she left the Viridian Gym and found her way by the playground beside Viridian University.

Professor Juniper had told her about the monument during their initial talk but Rane couldn't bear to visit old memories so soon, so she had waited. Waited until the very last minute when she had to leave Viridian and not come back for a long, long time.

But Professor Juniper wasn't the first one to tell her about it, Master was.

Master had pulled her aside before they began their journey, her voice soft and kind as she relayed her findings to Rane. She had just found out about it not too long ago, having been busy with work so the other girl could only nod, at a loss for words back then.

Even now she can't seem to find something to say.

The plaque has all the names of those lost in the attack and she easily traces out the familiar names that tug her heartstrings.

When the attack was over, Rane had been at a loss.

As a child, she had no known relative to turn to. She had her parents colleagues, but even then she knew things were tough on them. The only person who she had thought of getting help from- Professor Juniper- had been stung by a Beedrill's stinger but the damage was salvageable, however she was out of commission and therefore Rane truly had no one to take her in.

If the attack hadn't been so widespread throughout the city, it might have been less of an issue to find someone to help her. But the thing with Beedrills was that they had a big population, and they covered so much ground that it had thrown everything into a chaotic state.

To this day, Rane still can't think of anyone who would have been able to help her out had it not been for Master Azalea.

"I'm sorry it took so long for me to come back."

Isis gently rubbed her nose against Rane's ankle, a grounding presence as the girl barely got the words out of her mouth.

It had been painful, so painful to come to terms with the news. Rane only remembers the days blending together after the curled up in Master's temporary accommodation with whoever Master would leave behind to watch over her.

From what Master told her, Viridian was recovering from this mess of an attack and the prospects of someone willing to take her in was nil.

But Master being Master helped her then and there, and from that point it was history.

"Papa, Mama," The words left her lips and she could say no more.

The thing about crying was that it hits you out of nowhere. The emotions drown you, and it is the first wave that overwhelms you.

It's like being out at sea: one moment the waves are calm and you know that there's solid ground beneath your waddling feet, and the next it's like you're in the middle of a storm and there's nothing but the unknown depths under you.

Rane doesn't know how long she stood there crying, and frankly, she doesn't care, because she knows this:

She thought her world ended that day, and she knows a part of it definitely did, but she's still here.

And that has to mean something.