Chapter 22: Webs of Deception,
Webs of Deception
The sun sets. The moon rises in its place. The night is clear, cloudless. The Watcher drinks deep of the dark air.
The invaders sleep in caves, and tents, and wherever they please. The woods are not theirs, but they feel free to take them anyway. They are filth.
All but one. Some call him a savior. Some call him a liar, who can’t be trusted. He claims to hold the torch. Or, at least, the key to it.
The watcher gazes on.
We pitch our tent near Mt. Pyre’s bay. We haven’t gone far in this first day, but a lot has happened. I find as my companions not one person, but two.
I’m not crazy about this Millie girl, but it’s clear she isn’t going anywhere. We tried to convince her to go back to her sister, but she insisted that it was okay. Besides, she assured us, she only needs to go as far as Fortree. After that, she’ll leave us be. To my surprise, Ariana is okay with it, even supporting the idea.
It’s okay, though. Maybe it’s my new-found responsibility with Checkers kicking in, but I’m fine with having one more kid to look after. And it’s not like either of them aren’t capable. Millie proved that when she helped me catch the Heracross. As long as Millie can carry her own weight when I ask her to, I’ll let her stay. Besides, it might be good for Ariana to have a friend closer to her own age.
Now, the moon is out, with a halo of stars shimmering around it. The sky seems much more open here than back in Sootopolis. No white stone frame to hold the black night sky.
But I’m not wandering around in the dark to admire the scenery. A ways farther up the path, there’s a wide ring of lights. Small torches, actually. Some trainers have been battling there all night. With my new horned pessimist of a Pokémon, I thought I should join in for a while before bedding down. I don’t feel like sleeping anyway.
Earlier there were a lot of trainers hanging out by the ring. We didn’t go over because they all had Pokémon much stronger than Ariana’s. She wanted to keep training Lily, and I wanted to help her, so we stayed by the bay. Now, there are only three left. One of them looks over as I approach, and the other two follow suit.
“Hey,” I call out. “It isn’t too late to join in a little training before bed, is it?”
“Of course not,” says one of the three. He steps forward to shake my hand, and I double-take. He’s from Lilycove. One of the gym leaders, wearing the red PFH uniforms. One of the two who stayed silent during the speech when we arrived, but leapt into the fray when the Poochyena attacked. I never learned his name.
“I’m Tate. One of the two gym leaders of Mossdeep City.” I shake his hand, recalling the tales I’ve heard of him and his sister. The great Liza and Tate. Twins, child prodigies, supposedly bearers of some psychic link. I knew a lot about Juan, of course, having lived in Sootopolis for so long, but this guy and his sister were the only gym leaders I had ever heard much about. Strange people cause gossip, and these two were far from normal from birth.
Tate is a little younger than I. Short and a little scrawny, with long black hair down to his shoulders. The other two are David, a tall, lanky guy in his 40s with an affinity for bug-types, and Bridget, an attractive blonde wearing all black clothes, but hardly any clothes at all. She gives me a wink with her name, as her Linoone nips at my feet.
I explain why I’m looking for a battle in the dead of night. About my new Pokémon, who has been quite content to stay cooped up in his ball for the time being. I decided it best to find some stronger trainers to crash-test him with.
Blackjack – which is what I’ve decided to name my new Heracross – looks stoically around when I release him. He eyes the other trainers and Pokémon.
“He looks like a handful,” Bridget says, stepping back a little. I’m worried this training session isn’t going to happen after all, but Tate steps forward.
“Indeed. I’ll take him on.” Tate whips out a Poké ball, releasing a floating rock-type Pokémon shaped like a sun. Solrock.
“Oh – Toby, right? Get out your PokéNav. They can scan your Pokémon and give you their movesets.” I shuffle around in my pocket, extracting the little green device they gave me back in Lilycove. Upon turning it on, there’s a little menu with lots of options. After a moment of blinking at the screen like an idiot, I find the “scanner” button. When I select it, a faint buzzing sound emits from the device.
“Now just hold it up to your Pokémon,” Tate tells me. I do, and after a few seconds the screen lights up with a picture of a Heracross, and a list of data.
“And this is accurate?” I’m a little surprised by how strong it says Blackjack is. It makes sense, though, as she was clearly the pack leader. I’m just not used to finding such strong Pokémon in the wild. Also, it’s female, which I can’t say I had thought of.
“It is. The Devon corporation was very kind to us, and they have made sure these PokéNavs will keep us safe. Now then…shall we begin?”
The other two trainers step back, behind the edge of soft light that holds us in. I watch my Pokémon carefully, and I realize I’m nervous. When I started training with Checkers, we had already been together for quite some time. Something tells me that Blackjack, on the other hand, doesn’t really like me just yet. If this is how training a wild Pokémon is meant to be, it’s not going to be a good time. Ariana had it easy.
But I clench my fist, and nod. If anyone can handle a rowdy wild Pokémon, it’s a gym leader. I watch Tate carefully, trying to get a read on him. He has big eyes and a childlike face, which yields confidence but nothing more specific. The kid has as good a poker face as I’ve ever seen. I know my hand, and he knows his. Lets see who can play their cards the best.
“Let’s do this. And don’t hold back!” That comes out without my meaning it to. I want to be kind to my Pokémon, but I recall seeing trainers who would only fight against the gym trainers, and always lose. But fighting against such strong opponents made them ambitious, and drove them to become better trainers. Maybe a tough enough fight will help motivate Blackjack to listen to me. Tate nods, and we begin.
“Calm Mind!” I expected Tate’s first attack to be a show of great power. Instead, his Solrock is cloaked in a dim violet glow. He’s opening with a safe move, raising its power right out the gate. Or maybe he’s just stalling to give me time to figure out what to do. I glance down at the PokéNav.
“All right, then…Blackjack! Brick Break!” Blackjack is watching the Solrock uneasily, and takes this as her cue to act. She lowers her head, and makes a charge at the defending Pokémon. I don’t think this is actually Brick Break, but the attack still connects. The Solrock moves backwards as if sliding on ice, whirling in a straight line back several feet. It corrects itself, revolving to face us.
“Psychic! Get it off you!” The Solrock’s aura changes from light violet to dark, firey purple. Blackjack is enveloped by the same aura, and picked up off the ground. It’s similar to the attack Ariana’s Vulpix used, but much stronger. Blackjack contorts with sudden pain, and then falls back to the ground. She gets back up, looking more angry than injured. She looks back at me, then turns to face her foe again. We’re starting to connect. I can feel her anger, and I’m going to help her fight back.
“Now! Stealth Rock!” The Solrock lifts itself into the air, and begins spinning rapidly. Its aura turns bright green. Around my feet and Tate’s, rocks lift into the air, and are pulled into a sort of orbit around the Solrock. As I watch, the rocks collect, sticking to each other and creating larger, lumped-together chunks of rock. Eventually there are 8 of them, all shaped like spikes. The Solrock stops spinning, and the spikes fly away from its body, shooting into the ground around us like bullets into a body.
“What was the point of that?” I know how Stealth Rock works. The stones lie dormant, and then automatically attack any new opponent which enters the battlefield. A good tactic for a team battle, but this is one-one-one.
“And now weave a web with Charge Beam and Psychic!” Tate commands, in lieu of an answer to my question. But he answers by showing.
The Solrock flips onto its back in midair. After a moment, I realize each of the stones protruding from its body is aligned with one of the stealth rocks stuck in the ground around the edge of the battlefield. Blackjack shifts restlessly, but I’m temporarily distracted by what I’m seeing.
Watching psychic-type attacks is like watching the world through a sheet of water. Things warp and distort, but there’s still a sort of second image of those things, seeing them as they really are. Columns of this distorted space form between the points on the Solrock’s body and the stealth rocks. Just as Tate said, it’s like a web. The cylinders of distortion move like the space around them is being pulled in a spiral form. They twist slowly as they strengthen, and begin to gain the purple aura of the Solrock’s body.
Suddenly, the Pokémon’s aura switches to a bright electric yellow. The air becomes static, and even from a distance I can feel heat radiating off its body, which begins to spark. With a sound like a loud clap, beams of electricity shoot out along the strands of the web, traveling to the stones and back to Solrock.
“Do something!” Bridget shouts from the sidelines, snapping me back to reality. The Solrock has been vulnerable this whole time, and I’ve just been watching. Time to strike back.
“Blackjack! Take Down!” This time, Blackjack’s attack is what I had intended. She leaps into the air, slamming her whole body into the Solrock, and knocking it to the ground. The strands of energy dissapear.
“Do what you will. The trap is set.” Tate tells me, raising his eyebrows. The Solrock picks itself up again.
“What was all that?”
“You’ll have to find out. Come at me!” This is the first time he’s raised his voice. His face is intense. He’s enjoying this. Not such a good poker face after all.
“Go in for a Brick Break!” This time, once again, Blackjack seems to obey. Instead of a horn attack, she clenches a clawed fist, driving it into the Solrock and knocking it back a few feet.
“Now, another take down!” Blackjack leaps into the air again, but is suddenly knocked back in midair. Sparks fly in all directions, and Blackjack falls to the ground, limbs shaking. She stands again, but looks very weak.
“How did you…”
“Electric webbing. A favorite tactic of mine. After all, you did tell me to go all out, Toby.” Tate gives me a smirk.
Things are bad. I don’t know my opponents strategy. He knows how to play his cards better than I could in a decade, and has a good idea of my own hand as well. He’s got me in a tough spot, and there’s no luck to be found. No way out. None…but charging forward.
We both know what to do. The only way to make any damage before he takes us down. And that’s to charge through and endure the pain.
“Blackjack! One last fury attack!” Blackjack makes a guttural war cry, and charges forward. She staggers when she hits the invisible web, but keeps on going. She’s in pain, but has the stamina to push through. And the Solrock is dead ahead.
“Psychic!” Finish it!” He speaks the words right as I realize my mistake. Solrock is positioned behind not one strand of psychic webbing, but two. Blackjack and I are both unprepared for this, so when Blackjack hits the second strand it stops, caught in the painful electrical current. Her body writhes in pain as sparks of electricity cocoon her body. Then the Solrock makes its attack, and Blackjacks entire body contorts before falling to the ground. We’ve lost.
But I think I’ve gained something, too.
David and Bridget have taken the arena. Bridget’s Linoone is taking on David’s Beautifly, and not having a hard time. Tate and I sit off to the side.
“So really, what was that back there with the webs?” Tate nods, not taking his eyes off the battle.
“A couple years ago, my sister and I took a trip to Unova. They have Pokémon there that weave webs carrying electrical currents. These webs are sun-shaped, which reminded me of my own Solrock. After spending some time training with these Pokémon in their natural habitat, and observing their behavior, I wondered if I could create my own variation of the move. I actually only perfected it a few months ago. Solrock uses its advanced psychic abilities to create these closed spaces, borders within which and outside of which energy can exist, but not move between. It pushes outside forces away, but pushes internal matter and energy around within it. These are forged between whatever items surround the battlefield, or stealth rocks if there’s nothing else at hand. Then Solrock shoots a charge beam into each tube of closed space, where the energy continuously flows. Once the psychic energy settles the closed spaces into place, they turn invisible.”
“So you weave a web across the whole arena?”
“Exactly. Upon impact with a strand of the web, a Pokémon will be hit with a strong electrical current. The energy flows back and forth throughout the strands, so some impacts are more severe than others. Your Pokémon being able to break through the one was luck and good timing, nothing more.”
“Wow. That’s really impressive.”
“Thank you. I hope the battle didn’t hurt your Pokémon too badly.”
“No, no. Blackjack’ll be fine. I think a battle that fierce was good for us, you know? Near the end of the battle, when you had her on her last legs, I felt that same connection with her as I do with Checkers. It helped create a bit of a bond between us.”
“I’m glad to hear it.”
We’re quiet for a while after that. I don’t really know what else to say. I’m talking with a gym leader, one of the greatest Pokémon trainers in the world, and I don’t know what to say. So I just ask the first thing that come to mind.
“So why are you with these guys? Aren’t you with the PFH?” He gives a noncommittal shrug.
“Yes, but it will be okay if I’m gone for a little while. My sister is still on duty, and we have Juan. I just wanted to see a little bit of…the new Hoenn, before I have to return. These trainers asked if I would help them train out here,and I agreed. There were a lot more earlier. It was nice.”
“Hm.” It sounds like I’ve met another runaway. His reasons are none of my business. But he still decided to ask for mine.
“Why are you here, Toby?” I’m a little taken aback by the question. I’m not sure why.
“I…I went through some tough stuff for a couple years. My Dad passed away, and I was just…lost for a while. When I met my first Pokémon, I found myself again. I came here because…” I can’t answer the question. Not because I don’t want to, but because I really don’t know. I’m struggling.
“I guess just to start over. With my Dad gone, all I had was a small apartment in Sootopolis, and a job at a little casino there. My dad always told me to live my life on my own terms, but I couldn’t come up with any terms while I was stuck in Sootopolis. So I decided to take a journey here, and make up my terms as I go along.” I haven’t thought about this in some time, but the words feel right as I say them. It’s the truth, even if I hadn’t thought about it before now.
“I’ll admit, I envy you.” Tate says, a little quieter. “My sister and I always wanted to travel, but rarely had the chance. Because of our…abilities, we were always sheltered. First out of fear from our parents, then from the media once we were able to demonstrate our powers. We underwent training with a psychic who was very strict. We were forbidden from leaving the town. He was the leader of Mossdeep’s gym then, and he died when we were only nine. As his only disciples, we were forced to take over. We never had many chances to go anywhere where we could feel free. There’s always been some restriction on us. Any trip we did get to take was under heavy supervision by our managers at the gym. They always needed us back sooner than expected. Even now…” He trails off, still keeping his gaze fixed on the battle but no longer paying any real attention to the fight.
It sounds so strange, to live your life with so many restrictions. It’s all so foreign to me. My life was lived on the move, from place to place. Until Sootopolis, the longest I lived in a single place was a year. I guess I’m a traveller by nature. Maybe that’s part of what drew me here, too. Living a life where that isn’t possible doesn’t sound like a life worth living. I can see why he’s taking any opportunity to feel free now, while he can.
“That’s not the only reason I’m out here.” Tate says, as if reading my thoughts. Maybe he can.
“My sister Liza…she and I share a bond of minds. Right now, if I wanted to, I could call out to her and have a whole conversation while she’s still in Lilycove. But we have other abilities. We can see things. She has the ability for people. She can see things about a person’s future, and who they really are inside. I, on the other hand, get visions of the future. Not always specific ones. Sometimes just feelings. And now…I’m getting a very foreboding feeling.” His eyes finally disengage from their watching-but-not-watching of the battle before us, and he looks at me.
“Something big is going to happen here. Whatever already happened pales in comparison of what is yet to come. I haven’t seen much I can describe, but I’ve felt it since before we arrived. Something terrible shall begin. I know it will, because it feels right for it to. And it will start soon. There are…things…in the safari zone…”
“You’ve seen them, then. When I approached them, I felt something radiating from them. And from the symbol burned in the ground. Those are clues, but to what I do not know. Whatever is set to occur, these are only one strand in a much vaster web.” He sighs, and stands up.
“It is time I take my leave. Good luck, Toby. Watch yourself in the forest. It holds more than you know.” And he leaves, retreating into the dark path to Lilycove. The ring of fire is still bright, but it only takes a few seconds for his body to be completely swallowed in darkness.
Written by Jay Petrequin
Proofed by Greg